Small or large military exercises? A briefing of what each one means

What lies behind the military exercises conducted by Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia and why does each one publish the kinds of information on this matter that it publishes? Considering the official publications of the respective defence ministries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, and considering the particular circumstances and combat history of each party, the following can be said in general terms (always with exceptions):

Armenian units tend to focus more on frequent, almost daily military exercises involving a limited number of troops and equipment, seeking higher autonomy and mobility of each unit, as opposed to the larger-sized massive military exercises seen in neighbouring Azerbaijan, which require longer planning times and tend to concentrate on inter-operability and inter-dependence of units.

Each method of military training appears to concentrate on the particular military doctrine of the country. In Armenia’s case, autonomous units with higher manoeuvrability are the focus, most likely as a result of the limited manpower of Armenia’s armed forces (approx. 60.000) and difficult terrain conditions in mountainous regions that make difficult the co-ordination of units on a massive scale.

Azerbaijan, on the contrary, with its higher number of active military personnel (approx.. 80.000) and reserves, has more favourable terrain conditions for large-scale mobilisation; almost the whole eastern side of the line-of-contact is flat terrain; nonetheless, its larger formations dependent on one another for co-ordinated military operations face difficulties in forest-covered mountainous terrain, providing with little access to armoured vehicles and difficult to spot troop activity from the air under tree cover. Bi-lateral or multi-lateral training, particularly with Turkey is also another characteristic of Azerbaijan’s military doctrine.

An attack normally requires a higher ratio of troops compared to the defending side, hence the focus of Azerbaijan’s military on inter-operability to co-ordinate large numbers of troops during military operations. However, mobile and autonomous units requiring little high-price technology for effective combat as in the case for the Armenian side provide a formidable adversary during combat operations.

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