YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Russia announced on Tuesday the deployment of newly modernized warplanes at its military base in Armenia that has already been reinforced with more sophisticated weaponry in recent years.
The Russian Armed Forces’ Southern Military District said in a statement that “a batch of fourth-generation multipurpose MiG-29 fighter jets” has arrived at a military airport in Yerevan after undergoing “capital repairs.”
The Russian base, which uses the Erebuni airport together with the Armenian Air Force, was known to have 16 MiG-29s until now. The statement did not specify whether the Russian military has increased their number or simply upgraded some of the existing jets. A spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry declined to clarify that, referring all inquiries to the Russians.
That Moscow plans to have more modern military aircraft stationed in Armenia was first announced last October by Colonel Aleksandr Petrov, the commander of the aviation unit of the Russian base. Petrov said that the unit’s jets will have their electronic targeting and navigation systems upgraded.
The Southern Military District, which comprises the base headquartered in Gyumri, has reported in the last few years significant increases in flights carried out by Russian pilots serving in Armenia. A February 20 statement by the district said the number and length of such flights have increased by 15 percent so far this year.
The Russian military also plans to beef up the base with around two dozen combat helicopters later this year. It said in January that they will have “a wide range of tasks in aviation support for troops and transportation of personnel.”
The helicopters are to be deployed at the Erebuni airfield in line with an agreement reached by Russian and Armenian defense officials in April 2013. The Armenian government gave the formal green light to the deployment in November.