Azerbaijani "unmanned" An-2 biplanes
The Russian website "The Reporter" (topcor.ru) provides a report about the use of locally modified An-2 biplanes as decoys to locate Armenian air defence and artillery positions in the ethnic and territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
These agricultural aircraft (first flown in 1947) have obviously found a new use in Azerbaijan as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The principle of their operation is rather rudimentary; the pilot of the An-2 takes off normally, points the aircraft at Armenian positions and then locks and secures the aircraft’s controls using provided belts, converting it into some kind of ad hoc unmanned aerial vehicle. After that the pilot bails out to safety and lets the unmanned plane fly directly towards Armenian units, forcing the troops to open fire thus exposing them to Azerbaijani raids by drones and artillery.
Rumours about shooting down of an An-2 have been roaming around since the initial phase of the newly erupted conflict, but the use of such an old aircraft in a real conflict seemed hardly believable. On 1 October 2020, Armenia’s Ministry of Defence posted some videos showing a biplane shot down over Nagorno-Karabakh by a missile, but only after details started to emerge regarding the shot downs of several Azerbaijani An-2s during the conflict, most notably straight head-on course, as well as missing pilots, the whole thing about Azerbaijan using these aircraft to identify enemy air defence positions started to make sense.
Also satellite imagery revealed that a total of 62 Antonov An-2s were nicely lined up at Yevlakh airport and indicated these aircraft might be used for the drone programme. However, the An-2s were already noticed at the airport in June 2018.
In fact, the Dövlet Serhed Xidmeti (DSX, Azerbaijan State Border Service) is based at this airport operating various versions of the An-2 with the 2-ci Eskadrilya (2nd Squadron). A photo, date unknown, of temporary based Turkish Air Force F-16s shows the DSX An-2s on this airport (source Report News Agency).
For more information on the Air Order of Battle of the various Azerbaijan Armed Forces visit https://www.scramble.nl/planning/orbats/azerbaijan
Photos: via defence-blog.com and Report News Agency