|Artsakh Defence Army|
|Արցախի Հանրապետության պաշտպանության բանակ|
|Founded||9 May 1992|
|Minister of Defence and Defence Forces Commander||Lieutenant General Mikael Arzumanyan|
|Chief of Staff||Kamo Vardanyan|
The Artsakh Defence Army (Armenian: Արցախի Հանրապետության պաշտպանության բանակ, romanized: Artsakhi Hanrapetut’yan pashtpanut’yan banak) is the defence force of the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Established in 1992, it united previously disorganized self-defence units which were formed in the early 1990s with the avowed goal of protecting the ethnic Armenian population of Artsakh from attacks by Soviet and Azerbaijani armed forces.
The Artsakh Defence Army was founded on 9 May 1992. It created "its own central command and military structure distinct from the Armenian Army." Its founders included Robert Kocharyan (the former President of Armenia, he was the first commander-in-chief of the Army); Serzh Sargsyan (former Prime Minister and President of Armenia); Vazgen Sargsyan (Armenia's Defence Minister 1992–93, State Minister in Charge of defence 1993–95, Armenia's Prime Minister 1998–99); Monte Melkonian (responsible for Martuni Province); Samvel Babayan (Nagorno-Karabakh's Defence Minister from 1994 to 2000) and others. Many of the men who served in its ranks and in the officer corps during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War were seasoned veterans of the Soviet military and had fought in the Soviet–Afghan War.
Main article: First Nagorno-Karabakh War
The formal formation of the NKR Defence Army was rooted in the concept of the Jokat (volunteer detachment). With the early outbreak of hostilities prior to 1992, Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh began forming small detachments of volunteers, often self-described as Fedayeen, inheriting the name of the fighters who actively resisted the Ottoman Empire in the final decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries.
At the outset these detachments were small groups of no more than 12–40 men. For example, during Operation Ring, Shahumyan was defended by a force as small as 22 men under the command of Tatul Krpeyan. These volunteer militia would initially arm themselves with whatever was available, including hunting shotguns borrowed from local farmers and even home-made rifles. In the later stages of the war, these units armed themselves with AK-47s, RPGs and sometimes portable anti-aircraft MANPADs, transforming the defence force into a highly mobile and flexible force that was capable of waging guerrilla warfare. Likewise, these units initially had no heavy military equipment, but later started taking over large quantities of Azerbaijani tanks and armoured personnel carriers that were abandoned on the battlefield. Most of these captured tanks and APCs later became part of the NKR Defence Army's equipment. Improvization, multi-functionality, creativity, strong-morale, focus on defensive tactics, adaptation, flexibility, high-mobility and a native knowledge of the mountainous terrain are all important factors in understanding the combat success of these small units.
The initial purpose of these detachments, made up of volunteers, was mainly to defend Armenian civilian population, each in a particular village or town. Each of them was operating independently with no central command or leadership. Yet, these units would regularly collaborate in joint operations such as the battle of Khojaly in February 1992 or the June 1992 surprise counter-offensives during Operation Goranboy. The increasing scale and intensity of Azerbaijani attacks, the devastation caused by Grad multiple rocket launchers firing from Shusha and the Lachin, the blockade from mainland Armenia had broadened the notion of security beyond the mere defence of a small village. Capturing Shusha and Lachin as well as turning the tide of Operation Goranboy became, for the Armenians, not only a matter of security, but that of survival. For the successful conduct of such large-scale operations, the detachments had to be consolidated under a single, unified command.
Mient Jan Faber argues that "August 1992 marked the watershed between purely voluntary Armenian Karabakh forces reinforced by volunteers from Armenia and an organised NKR army with its own central command and a military structure distinct from the Armenian army."
The Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army's primary role after the conclusion of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994 is the protection of the NKR from foreign and domestic threats. Though the war ended with the signing of a cease fire between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan and the de facto independence of the NKR, the Azerbaijani leadership has repeatedly threatened to restart hostilities to retake the region. Violations of the cease fire along the line of contact are frequent and often result in the deaths of several soldiers and civilians each year. One of the most significant breaches of the ceasefire occurred in Martakert on 8 March 2008, when up to sixteen soldiers were killed. Both sides accused the other of starting the battle. In June 2010, new skirmishes broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops along the line of contact, resulting in the deaths of four Armenian servicemen. Clashes in summer 2014 resulted in the deaths of six Armenian and thirteen Azerbaijani servicemen. On 12 November 2014, a Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army Mi-24 attack helicopter participating in the week-long joint Armenian–NKR Unity 2014 military exercises was shot down by the Azerbaijani military, killing all three crew members. On 1 April 2016 war-like clashes began; according to several sources they were the worst since 1994. The Artsakh Defence Army suffered a defeat in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, fighting against the military of Azerbaijan.
NKR self-defense detachments were formed on 22 February 1988. At the end of 1991 and at the beginning of 1992, more than ten volunteer detachments and detachments were formed in Stepanakert and included more than a thousand freedom fighters. Motorized regiments were then formed on the basis of the following structure:
In September 1989, the Central Defense District (also known as the Stepanakert Defense District) was formed on the basis of those battalions.
Its first battalion was formed on 16 July 1992. The district was formed in September 1992, in accordance with the order of the Chairman of the Committee for Self-Defense of the Artsakh Republic in August 1992.
It was formed in September 1991 by the order of the President on the basis of self-defense detachments and platoon operating in the region.
The Yeghnikner ("The Deers") Detachment was founded on 11 March 1993 and is considered to be one of the most elite units of the army of the unrecognized republic. It originated from a partisan unit created by Shahen Meghryan, which was formed on 25 June 1992 from self-defense detachments of the district villages. Among its symbols were the coat of arms of the Meliks of Gulistan and its unit banner. The Shahumyan Defensive Region (SDR) was formed by the Chairman of the Self Defense Committee in March 1993, originally incorporating two battalions Between 1993 an 1994, SDR units participated in battles and operations in Martakert and Shahumyan.
On 2 October 2021, President Arayik Harutyunyan conferred the title of Hero of Artsakh on the commander of the Yeghnikner unit Karen Jalavyan. After the 2020 war, rumors on the Internet claimed that the unit had to leave its positions, which was denied by the commander.
Askeran Defense District was formed by the order of the NKR IPC President of August 14, 1992. There are 4 rifle battalions in the district:
The Shushi Independent Battalion was formed on 1 September 1992, originally consisting of over 1,000 soldiers including many from the United States, Canada, Syria, France, Iran, Russia and Georgia. A memorial to the fallen military personnel from the battalion was erected on the southern top of Mount Aragats in 2003. Most soldiers in the battalion were members of the ARF.
After the 2016 Nagorno-Karabakh clashes, the ARF helped the Ministry of Defense of Armenia in setting up a volunteer reserve battalion, tracing back its heritage from the Shushi independent battalion.
It was based in the Madagiz settlement of the Martakert Province. In May 2017, the commander and two deputies of the military unit were dismissed after 3 soldiers drowned after their UAZ-315195 vehicle fell into a reservoir. Among its notable commanders was Mikael Arzumanyan, the current Commander of the Defense Army, serving as the commander of the unit at the age of 22.
It was formed on 14 October 1992 and is part of the Central Defense Region. It is named after "Commander Vazgen Sargsyan".
The Special Forces of the Artsakh Defense Army was established in 2000. Based on the previous National Guard, it carries out both of planned and unplanned combat operations. Among its notable commanders were Samvel Harutyunyan. On 11 August 2010, a memorial fountain was unveiled in Aygestan community of Askeran region on August 10 in memory of the fallen soldiers of the Special Forces. The memorial was built with the financial means of the former and current servicemen of the detachment. Their professional holiday is on 5 November.
The Defense Army has an engineering battalion that is involved in the clearance of minefields of strategic importance. It was formed on 1 February 1995. Roles Aghajanyan was the first head of the Defence Army engineering services.
See also: Military ranks of Armenia
The Artsakh Defence Army is currently composed of around 20,000 officers and soldiers and maintains a "constant state of readiness, undergoing more serious combat training and operational exercises than any other former Soviet army." The Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army maintains a small air force with a personnel of around 250 men. The Army is a conscript force, with there also being a growing number of professional officers.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army's equipment consists of infantry, tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems. The Karabakh army's heavy military hardware includes: 186 tanks, 68 armoured vehicles, 98 artillery pieces of calibres over 122mm, 44 multiple rocket launchers (most likely BM-21 Grad), and a anti-aircraft defence system of an unspecified type WM-80, Scud-B: at least 4 launchers.
As for infantry, most rely on the AK-74 rifle and older AKMs in reserve for standard-issue rifles. Other basic weapons consist of Makarov PM pistols, PK machine guns, and RPG-7 rocket launchers, all mostly supplied by Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh military is deeply integrated with the Armenian military, and the NKR depends on the Armenian Army to ensure its survival as an independent national entity. Armenia considers any act of aggression against Karabakh as an act of aggression against itself.
|Makarov||Soviet Union||9x18 mm|
|AK-74||Soviet Union||5.45×39mm||Standard rifle of Artsakh Defence Army.|
|Dragunov SVD||Soviet Union||7.62×54 mm|
|Zastava M93 Black Arrow||Serbia||12.7×108 mm|
|PK machine gun||Soviet Union||7.62×54 mm|
|DSHK||Soviet Union||12.7×108 mm|
|NSV machine gun||Soviet Union||12.7×108 mm|
|T-72B|| Soviet Union
|Main battle tank||186|
|Infantry fighting vehicles|
|BMP-1||Soviet Union||Infantry fighting vehicle||18||Six 9M14M "Malyutka" ATGMs were fitted on an elevatable mount from the 9P122 tank destroyer on the top of the turret at the rear.|
|BMP-2||Soviet Union||Infantry fighting vehicle||50||BMP-2s variant in use.|
|BRDM-2||Soviet Union||Scout car|
|9P149 Shturm-S||Soviet Union||Tank destroyer||27 systems purchased from Moldova. Displayed with 9M120 Ataka missile during the Defense Expo in Yerevan|
|2S3 Akatsiya||Soviet Union||Self-propelled artillery|
|ZiS-3||Soviet Union||Field artillery||76mm. Used during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. Withdrawn from service. Some used as monuments, while others are used by reserve units.|
|Transport and utility helicopters|
|Mil Mi-8|| Soviet Union
|Medium transport helicopter||5||Advanced Research and Assessment Group of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom reports that NKR Army has 5 other helicopters. These are most likely transport and utility helicopters. Indeed, in 2012 parade, 5 Mi-8 helicopters were on display.|
Shusha Liberation Day (9 May) and Homeland Defender's Day (28 January) are two military holidays celebrated by the Defence Army. The former commemorates the founding of the military as well as the Capture of Shusha and the traditional Victory Day celebrations commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of the Great Patriotic War in 1945. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as a "triple holiday". An annual military parade is held in the capital, with a reception being held at the local House of Officers in the capital.
Whereas the Armenian Army celebrates Army Day on 28 January, the Defence Army celebrates Homeland Defender's Day on the same day.