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.


    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 [email protected]