YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is inching closer to buying sophisticated Russian fighter jets for its armed forces, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan indicated on Thursday.
Russia reportedly agreed in 2012 to sell at least 12 Sukhoi Su-30SM jets to Armenia. According to Russian media reports, the deal fell through because of financial problems cited by the former Armenian government.
Armenia’s current government signaled a strong interest in acquiring such aircraft shortly after taking office in May last year. In June, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian photographed himself in the cockpit of a Su-30SM parked at the Erebuni airbase in Yerevan.
Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said in early December that Moscow and Yerevan are now close to signing a contract on the delivery of the warplanes which would significantly strengthen Armenia’s modest Air Force. “We are trying to do that very quickly,” he told Russian journalists.
Citing the Armenian Defense Ministry, the Russian Sputnik news agency reported on Wednesday that the contract has already been signed.
The ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, did not confirm that when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “As Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said, we are working on the acquisition of Su-30s,” he said. “As soon as there are tangible results we will announce them.”
Asked whether an agreement to that effect has indeed been signed with the Russians, Hovannisian said: “When we have tangible results regarding the contract, supply dates or other details we will announce them.”
The Armenian Air Force currently consists of 15 or so low-flying Su-25 jets designed for air-to-ground missions.
Su-30SM can perform a broader range of military tasks with more long-range and precision-guided weapons. It is a more advanced version of a heavy fighter jet developed by the Sukhoi company in the late 1980s. The Russian military commissioned the first batch of such aircraft in 2012.
Tonoyan said in August that the Armenian army needs them too because “no missile system can be a substitute for this capacity in terms of flexibility and resilience.”