David Tonoyan

Armenia in Talks With Russia Over Another Fighter Jet Deal

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is holding talks with Russia to buy more Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets for its armed forces, Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said over the weekend.

“The acquisition of a new batch [of Su-30SM jets] is planned,” he said. “Negotiations are underway at the moment.”

Tonoyan, who most recently visited Moscow last week, gave no details of the negotiations.

In a significant boost to its small Air Force, Armenia has already purchased four such multirole jets at an undisclosed price. They were delivered to an airbase in Gyumri in December. Tonoyan said earlier in 2019 that Yerevan plans to acquire eight more Su-30SMs in the coming years.

Su-30SM is a modernized version of a heavy fighter jet developed by Russia’s Sukhoi company in the late 1980s. The Russian military first commissioned it in 2012.

Before receiving the first four Su-30SMs the Armenian Air Force largely consisted of 15 or so Su-25 aircraft designed for close air support and ground attack missions. The Armenian Defense Ministry contracted on August 24 a Russian defense company, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), to modernize some of these aging jets.

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Tonoyan revealed on Saturday that UAC will repair and upgrade four of them in Russia. He stressed the importance of that deal, saying that the Armenian military had sought it “for years.”

The deal was signed in Moscow in Tonoyan’s presence. While in the Russian capital, the latter also attended the opening ceremony of the International Army Games and met with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Tonoyan praised the current state of Russian-Armenian military cooperation and, in particular, defense contracts signed by Moscow and Yerevan in the last several years.

He also said: “In the area of defense industry there have been quite interesting developments. I don’t want to go into details now, but I am buoyed by the involvement of private companies in the creation of [Russian-Armenian] joint ventures in Armenia.”

One such development is the production of advanced models of Kalashnikov assault rifles which was launched by the Armenian company Neitron in July. Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern has granted Neitron a 10-year license to assemble up to 50,000 AK-103 rifles annually.

Russia has long been the principal source of military hardware supplied to the Armenian army. Membership in Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) allows Armenia to acquire Russian weapons at knockdown prices and even for free.

 

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