Azeri Silk Way Airlines: Small Arms Shipments through Diplomatic Carriers

A Bulgarian investigative journalist by the name of Dilyana Gaytandzhiev has published an article vigorously detailing the activities of the Azerbaijani state run airline Silk Way in providing arms shipments across the MENA region and Africa in the airlines diplomatic capacity. Not only does it appear that U.S. Special Operations Command is using the airline to transport massive amounts of small arms and ammunition from Eastern Europe to groups in Syria, but also such customers as Saudi Arabia, and Kurdish state actors in addition to possibly much more. The majority of the shipments appear to be rocket launchers and associated ammunition, but there are numerous amounts of Kalashnikov variants mixed in among the shipments as well. We actually had a post on TFB about shipments from Bulgaria to Kurdistan as early as 2008, so the Silk Way connection might not be that far off in this regard.

The article makes mention of Romanian AKMs being shipped from Romania to the Kurds, and we can explicitly see an example of that in this image of a Kurdish fighter, taken by Delil Souleiman of AFP. Characteristic of Romanian rifles is the curved forward grip, seen on AIM rifles and AIMS versions.

Also all over Syria are Bulgarian 7.62x54mm MG1M PKM variants, with their unique black polymer stocks and fluted barrels.

Our motto here is “Firearms, not Politics”, and this is a very political subject. However, I think mentioning this article is extremely important because it allows us a deeper understanding of the small arms environment in Syria and plays a key piece into how the shipments got there. In particular SPG-9s as an example that the article talks about SIlk Ways delivering. Of course, not every piece of Russian hardware in Syria is delivered through SIlk Way, but this helps us complete the picture.



Miles

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


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  • B-Sabre
  • Major Tom

    Nice plane?

    • Paul Prochko

      Detailing the firearms being used by the Kurds, pictures of the weapons and all is great. Everybody and their dog has weapons in Syria. Detailing how they are being brought in and by whom serves no purpose, unless your interested in the politics of it.

      • Tritro29

        Mhh kurds…in greater Homs, Northern Aleppo and Rif Dimashq. How about no? No later than yesterday did miles pointed out an Anjad kavkaz goon with a Bulgarian MG1 transformed into a shorter variant with a M79 sight on top.
        How about politics through other means?

        • Paul Prochko

          Exactly

        • glenn cheney

          He was killing Turks he gets a pass, it’s self determination and preservation, not political at all.

  • A.WChuck

    So “Firearms, not Politics” is officially dead now? Honest question.

    • crackedlenses

      What was political about this post?

      • A.WChuck

        As Miles himself wrote in the article above “Our motto here is “Firearms, not Politics”, and this is a very political subject.”

        • crackedlenses

          But he does not touch on any of the political aspects of the subject. The post is not political unless the mere mention of the subject somehow qualifies as political.

          • CavScout

            Though the original article shows supposed evidence of the Obama admin supplying ISIS up until the end of Obama’s reign.

    • Jeff Smith

      There’s a difference between reporting firearms related news and delving into the politics of a subject.

      It’s not like Miles wrote “THANKS, OBAMA” at the end of the story.

      • glenn cheney

        That cash is burning in Iranian pockets, spread the wealth is the norm.

    • Stuki Moi

      Perhaps I’m just being US centric, but from where I’m sitting, this is less about politics than logistics. For those closer to this particular action, like the Bulgarian journalist, I can understand if things are viewed differently.

    • f35hunter

      Frankly, I didn’t see the “Politics” in this article. It is more (What is the source of conflicting parties are getting their weapons and what types of weapons they got) than “Pure God damn politics”

    • CavScout

      Miles is a liberal, generally.
      What he doesn’t probably realize… the original article shows and claims supposed evidence, which is that Obama directly supported ISIS in Syria, all the way up until the election when we were supposedly no longer helping ISIS. Obama and his admin supplied them.

  • Jim Slade

    How those guns get there is a relevant part of the discussion.
    Besides, y’all balance out stuff like this with a piece on every asshat that wrenches something 1% different from the competition onto an AR.

  • Middle Eastern politics is a pretty nasty disease. One minute you’re fit as a fiddle and the next minute you’re TTAG!

  • Jeff Smith

    If Fed Ex tells me they can’t ship my ammo via air, I’m sending them this.

    • glenn cheney

      Apparen’t there is a two or three pallet minimum. Pump up the volume.

      • Jia Li

        That is right. Them are rookie numbers!!!

  • micmac80

    Article says a lot about supplying terrorists with arms , particulary US supplying Al Qaida ,how come you didn’t feel inclined to mention it in the writeup.

    • crackedlenses

      Firearms, not politics.

    • CavScout

      Supposed evidence in original article shows Obama Admin supply Al Nursa Front (ISIS state fighters) all the way until Trump got in.

  • Brett baker

    I KNOW NUTHING!

  • John

    Damn. Hope the NY Times hires her.

    • glenn cheney

      Washpo has dibs I hear.

  • 1inidaho

    Wherever there is conflict is someone making a buck off it.

  • CavScout

    Original article has supposed proof that Obama supplied ISIS up to the election even. So now we know, Obama and his cronies supplied ISIS the entire time. Not just the beginning.

  • Ira

    Great article, super interesting stuff, reminds me of a modern day Air America. Don’t listen to all the folks complaining, you took no sides, simply reported the facts. Interesting facts at that.

  • Max Glazer

    Middle East is saturated with AKs and nothing else. That is the worst environment for any weapon and AKs there are all the rage.