A Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Su-25 attack aircraft of the Armenian Air Force over the territory of Azerbaijan, killing the pilot, the Armenian Ministry of Defense of Armenia claims. Turkey denies the allegation.

In the morning of September 29, 2020, F-16 fighter jets of the Turkish Air Force allegedly took off from the Azerbaijani Air Force base in Ganja International Airport (KVD), western Azerbaijan, to "support the actions of Azerbaijani aviation and drones that were striking the settlements of Vardenis, Mets Masrik and Sotk in Armenia", according to the press secretary of the Armenian Minister of Defense Shushan Stepanyan. An Armenian Su-25 attack aircraft, which was supporting the Armenian air defense, was shot down by one of the Turkish F-16 fighter jets.

The Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" is a rustic single-seater ground attack aircraft specifically suited for close support. Sporting a 30 mm GSh-30-2 gun, it exists in a lot of different versions, some that can transport up to 6,400 kilograms of ordnance. In many regards, it is the Russian counterpart of the American A-10 Thunderbolt.

At the time, the Turkish aircraft was 60 kilometers deep into the territory of Azerbaijan, at an altitude of 8200 meters, according to Armenian air controllers.

The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the allegation. “The Armenian claim is false”, declared presidential aide Fahrettin Altun. At the time of the publication, Azerbaijan did not comment on the incident.

Tensions arise in Nagorno-Karabakh

Fights have been raging in the landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh since September 27, 2020. Shortly before his Ministry made the claim, the Armenian Defense Minister Artsrun Hovhannisyan had already accused Turkey of direct aggression against the Republic of Armenia. 

After tensions reignited in this 30-year-old frozen war, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Armenia to end the “occupation” of Azerbaijani territory, while Turkish Foreign Ministry said it would give Azerbaijan "full support.”

A video released by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense showing airstrikes on several defense positions led to the suspicion that Turkey could be actively helping its neighbor. Indeed, the footage seems to have been shot from a Bayraktar TB2, as the interface suggests.

It is yet to be determined if the unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) were operated by the Turkish military or by the Azerbaijani forces, but no acquisition of the TB2 by the latter was made public at this point.

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After almost thirty years of latent conflict, the landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh has recently been the theater of violent confrontations. While it is hard to distinguish the truth from propaganda spread by both belligerents, it appears that at least one Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter of the Azerbaijan Air Force was shot down by Karabakh forces. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani defense ministry boasted its military prowess by sharing footage shot from what looks like a Turkish-made drone.