The Turkish and Azerbaijani air forces began fresh joint exercises at an airfield in central Turkey on Tuesday, highlighting close military ties between Ankara and Baku.
News reports said their warplanes, including three Azerbaijani MiG-29 fighter jets and three Su-25 attack aircraft, as well as combat helicopters will practice joint operations for the next five weeks.
The Turkish news agency Anatolia said the purpose of the exercises is to “prepare common operation plans and mutual command structures.” It quoted the commander of the Azerbaijani airmen participating in the drills as calling them historic. An Azerbaijani Defense Ministry statement cited by the APA news agency said they stem from a “cooperation plan” for 2015 agreed by the Turkish and Azerbaijani militaries.
The war games began less than six months after at least a dozen Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships joined large-scale military exercises conducted by the Azerbaijani armed forces. The Defense Ministry in Baku said at the time that they carried out coordinated flights with Azerbaijani Air Force units to “test possibilities of coordination in combat operations.”
The previous Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises took place near Turkey’s border with Armenia in February 2014. They reportedly involved more than 1,600 Turkish and about 100 Azerbaijani soldiers.
Such drills appear to have become more frequent since the signing in 2010 of a Turkish-Azerbaijani treaty on “strategic partnership and mutual assistance.” It is not clear, though, whether the treaty commits the Turkish military to fighting on the Azerbaijani side in case Baku attempts to forcibly regain control over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.