Slovak Minister of Defence visited Azerbaijan, where he praised the products of the Slovak defence industry

 01. 02. 2024      category: Events
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Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák travelled to Azerbaijan a few days ago, where he met with President Ilham Aliyev, Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov and Defence Industry Minister Vugar Mustafaev. The defence industry was one of the key topics of the meeting and the Slovak minister highlighted the products of Slovak arms factories that could be interesting for the Caucasian country.

Foto: Slovenský ministr obrany Robert Kaliňák před několika dny absolvoval cestu do Ázerbájdžánu | Ministerstvo obrany SR
Picture: Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák travelled to Azerbaijan a few days ago | Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic

According to the Slovak Ministry of Defence, during his visit the head of the Ministry Robert Kaliňák outlined to his partners and representatives of Azerbaijan the priorities in the modernisation of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic (AF SR) and also raised the topic of strengthening cooperation between the two countries in the field of defence industry. Cooperation in this sphere is seen as a promising area for the development of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. During the discussions, specific products that Slovakia can offer, such as Zuzana and BIA self-propelled howitzers or Božena demining systems, were also mentioned.

Foto: Vize a plány nové slovenské vlády na nadcházející volební období definuje programové prohlášení vlády včetně priorit v oblasti obrany a bezpečnosti. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: Slovak self-propelled howitzer Zuzana 2 | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE

Božena demining systems have been in service with ANAMA Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action for several years. This agency is involved in all activities related to mine clearance on the territory of Azerbaijan. ANAMA currently has several Božena-4 and Božena-5 mine clearance systems manufactured and supplied by Way Industries. The Božena demining sets are remotely operated and are designed to dispose of unexploded ordnance, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. The systems are also in the Czech Army's arsenal and can be found in Croatia, Canada, Turkey, Nigeria and Chile, to name a few. Both generations of Bozhen systems were purchased by Azerbaijan in the first years of the new millennium. Azerbaijan uses the Božena systems mainly in demining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, where three Božena-4 and two Božena-5 sets were deployed in 2022.

Slovak Zuzana and BIA howitzers are not yet deployed in any Caucasus country, but Azerbaijan is not the only potential suitor for Slovak guns. At the end of 2021, it was reported in the media that Georgia had expressed interest in the Zuzana-2 howitzers. The latter plans to acquire new howitzers after 2024 as part of the Georgian Armed Forces Action Plan for the period 2020-2030. Moreover, the Zuzana howitzers are also gaining attention due to their deployment on the front lines in Ukraine. The BIA self-propelled howitzer, on the other hand, is a novelty from the state-owned company KONŠTRUKTA – Defence, which introduced it last autumn.

Foto: Prototyp samohybné kanónové houfnice BIA 6×6 | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: Prototype of the BIA 6×6 self-propelled gun howitzer at IDEB 2023 | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE

According to Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák, the recent meeting with Azerbaijani representatives was successful and cooperation in the defence industry can be expected to deepen. However, it was not specified how the cooperation could develop further. The question remains whether the Slovak defence industry will succeed in deepening its presence on the Azerbaijani market and in the Caucasus in general. At the end of last year, there were speculations that Azerbaijan was to acquire Serbian-made NORA B52 howitzers, which may reduce the chances of Slovak Zuzans. In any case, it is good that the Slovak defence ministry is trying to promote its defence industry in the Caucasus countries, a region with great prospects for defence and security cooperation.

 Author: Mgr. Otto Dóka

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