These two countries are not on great terms, but what does that mean for aviation?
Who and who?
Armenia: A country in Asia (but with fairly strong tie to Europe) which is sandwiched between Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Turkey to the west and Iran to the south. The capital is Yerevan.
Azerbaijan: A country also in Asia which was formerly part of the Soviet Republic. They lie to the east of Armenia and north of Iran, and border the Caspian Sea and Russia. The capital is Baku.
Nagorno-Karabakh: A landlocked mountainous area in the Caucasus region which is international recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but whose inhabitants are predominantly Armenian…
What’s been happening?
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and for sometime now. Back in 1988 a major war between them erupted. Between then and 2020 there were numerous skirmishes and general tensions, and in 2020 a 44 day war broke out again.
Türkiye and Israel also got involved, supporting Azerbaijan, and Russia stepped in to arrange a ceasefire – being an ally of Armenia, but having strong relations still with Azerbaijan as well. A ceasefire held, but tensions remained.
In September 2022, renewed clashes started up again and the region has been simmering ever since.
Most recently, Azerbaijan started mobilising their military forces again, particularly along the southern border with Armenia, reportedly focusing on the Azeri Enclave. With “former peacekeeping” Russia preoccupied, there is a risk that this could once again develop into a full scale conflict.
For more information and to monitor the potential conflict, we recommend these sites:
- Dyami Services early warning safety/security brief
- Global Conflict Tracker Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict brief
- ACLED Data 2023 Conflict Watchlist
- Osprey Flight Solutions 2020 Briefing on airspace risk
- EASA CZIBS Currently no applicable
- NOTAMS including State warnings. Currently no applicable
The Aviation Impact
In 2022, the flare-up resulted in a temporary closure of routes and airspace along the border between the two nations. A similar situation occurred in 2020.
- Restricted areas were established in Azerbaijan, along the border with Armenia
- NOTAMs advised caution within the UBBA/Baku FIR, particularly due to the risk of increased military traffic and potential missile use
- Armenian airspace remained open, but issued NOTAMs warning go potential re-routes and short notice closures and recommended additional fuel be carried
- Routings between the two countries’ airspaces were effectively closed
- Germany recommended caution if overflying the countries
- France restricted operations in the border region, and recommended using specific airways in the north of the FIR at or above FL340 only
The presence of drones and military traffic, and reported availability of anti-aircraft missiles, along with the volatility on the ground resulted in alerts regarding the safety and security for civilian aircraft on the region.
With the current closure of Russian Ukrainian and Belarussian airspace to many operators, and with ongoing conflict in Iran and Iraq, and prohibition against Syrian airspace, a closure of airspace or routings across Armenia and Azerbaijan will mean a further reduction in available routings between Europe and the Far East.
UDDD/Yerevan, UBBA/Baku FIRs both may see temporary, partial closures if conflict resumes.
Operators avoiding Iran and Iraq can currently route via Türkiye or across the Southern portion of the Black Sea and then via Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan/Tajikstan and make use of the G500/P500 airways crossing the tip of Afghanistan and linking to Pakistan. This routing will be more restricted if the airspaces close.
UBBB/Baku and UDYZ/Yerevan offer good diversion options in a region fairly limited for these. Baku offers two decent runways, 4000m and 3200m with ILS CAT II/III capability. Yerevan has one 3850m runway with CAT II capability. It is the more challenging, with a very high MSA and elevation.