Russia to Boost Armenian Military, Fighter Jets Approved

PM Pashinyan inside the cockpit of an Su-30SM, June 17, 2018 (Photo: Nikol Pashinyan Facebook page)

YEREVAN— The Armenian Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it is expecting an order for four Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighters. This announcement follows months of deliberation over the purchase of the aircraft.

On June 17, 2018, then newly-elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan posted a photo to his Facebook account depicting him at the controls of an Su-30 on the tarmac at Erebuni air base. The potential purchase of the fighters became the focus of considerable debate among Armenia’s defense community and spending watchdogs.

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the previous administration had also negotiated the purchase of the airplanes as far back as 2012, but the deal fell through due to a lack of funds. Rumors resurfaced in 2016 when then-Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian hinted that they would be purchased along with the Iskander-M ballistic missile system.

Su-30SM undergoing maintenance on the tarmac, Russian Ministry of Defense

The Su-30SM multi-role fighter is a development of the Soviet-era fourth generation Su-27 family of jets introduced by the Sukhoi design bureau. The twin-engined two-seater plane is intended to conduct air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions in any weather condition. Aircraft of the type have been deployed as part of Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Various versions have already been delivered to India, China, Vietnam, Venezuela and Kazakhstan to name a few.

According to sources close to the Russian defense industry, Armenia will pay for the four planes through a Russian loan. Yerevan benefits from preferential pricing on Russian military hardware through its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

About 15 Soviet-era Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) ground support aircraft make up the core of the Armenian Air Force fleet, one of which was involved in a fatal crash late last year. They are supported by a smaller number of trainer jets. With the addition of the Su-30s to its inventory, the Armenian Air Force will considerably upgrade its operational capabilities.

Critics of the deal are concerned over the cost of the purchase. Ministry of Defense (MOD) spokesman Artsrun Hovannisian did not reveal the price tag on these advanced jets. Similar jets have been sold to India for approximately $30 million per unit. Details regarding weapon payloads, replacement parts, pilot training and daily operational costs have likewise not been discussed.

Denouncing what they saw as a frivolous purchase by the Armenian government, experts have called on the government to avoid unnecessary spending while prioritizing investments into domestic poverty-reduction programs. According to the Asian Development Bank, approximately 29 percent of the country’s population lives on $2 a day. News that Armenia would take out yet another loan from Russia to finance the acquisition garnered more apprehension over the increasing dependency on Moscow.

The Su-30SM purchase has also faced criticism from defense strategists. These large aircraft are designed for offensive missions in vast operational theaters. The conditions created physical limitations of Armenia and Artsakh’s combined airspace; mountainous conditions have also been described as unsuitable for such an aircraft. This operational environment is much better suited for rotary aircraft. The MOD has neglected to modernize its aging fleet of Mi-8 transport helicopters and M-25 Hind helicopter gunships. These helicopters are vital for the security of Artsakh by providing air cover, troop deployment and resupply capabilities to remote parts of the frontline. Badly-needed upgrades like fly-by-wire avionics, next-generation Doppler radars, firing optics and targeting systems could keep these machines flying above the modern battlefield.

Defense analyst Richard Giragosian told the Weekly, “Air power hasn’t played a significant role in the 1989-94 Karabakh conflict or the Four Day War in 2016.” Despite Azerbaijan’s acquisition of a squadron of MiG-29s in 2007, these machines took a backseat to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the most recent conflict.

Giragosian went on to say that Pashinyan has essentially picked up a Sarkisian-era deal to buy the jets as part of a “gesture of good faith” toward the Kremlin. Back in 2015, at Moscow’s insistence, Yerevan agreed to integrate its air defense infrastructure with that of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. This agreement came into force in April 2018, only days before the Sarkisian regime was deposed.

Incidentally, both Astana and Minsk have also received deliveries of the same Su-30SM interceptors. In many ways, this aircraft is better suited for the role of patrolling the airspace of the CSTO than fulfill any of Armenia’s defense requirements against Turkey or Azerbaijan. “This investment may offer prestige and pride, yet does little to meet real military needs or necessity,” added Giragosian.

This revelation comes a week after the MOD also announced the purchase of the AK-12 infantry assault rifle from Russia, making Armenia the first foreign country to adopt it. Additional batches will be produced domestically under license. The rifle uses the same 5.45×39mm cartridge and magazines as the legendary Kalashnikov AK-74 it intends to replace. This new service weapon will feature a polymer retractable stock and hand guards to reduce weight. An integrated Picatinny rail will be capable of mounting optics. The rifle will also have a slightly improved cyclic rate.

Russian soldier demonstrating the AK-12 service rifle, Russian Ministry of Defense

The new service rifle offers only minor improvements on the current issued AK-74. The Russian military itself only grudgingly adopted the rifle (which had been relegated to storage until they can figure out what to do with them). It remains unclear whether the Armenian MOD’s military procurement office announced any rifle replacement tenders before settling on the AK-12. Other contenders, such as the Finnish Valmet RK 62 M1, the Israeli IWI Galil Ace or domestically manufactured alternatives, may have been overlooked. Both the Valmet and Galil have garnered reputations as some of the best AK variants on the market. Their lightweight, ergonomic design, compatibility with AK parts and modularity make them perfect contenders for service rifle replacement in former-communist militaries.

In either case, fighter jet-diplomacy, rather than tactical necessity, seems to be motivating Armenia’s recent military procurement strategy.

Raffi Elliott

Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. A former correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, his focus is socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia.


  1. Yawn. Is “Mother Russia” that desperate for cash they are now trying to sell their junk planes to their broke subjects? Or maybe it’s another scam to take Armenia’s money to keep it poor. That’s funny. Meanwhile, “Mother Russia” is also about to sell Turkey the missiles which can shoot these planes down and Azerbaijan already has them courtesy of “Mother Russia”. So these planes are to be used for WHAT exactly? Armenia is too incompetent to even address Azerbaijan shooting at Armenian villages in Armenia proper rather than Artsakh. Maybe Armenia is better off buying some competent leaders and military commanders instead of useless planes.

  2. The idea that any Armenian leader would spend more than hundred million dollars on purchasing planes only to appease Putin is so dumb that I don’t even want to think about it. There are much cheaper stuff you can do to make Putin happy. If Pashinian was so eager to appease Putin, he wouldn’t send Rob back to jail for a second time after Putin congratulated him! The only reason Armenia has decided to purchase these planes is clearly stated in the article. They are capable of conducting air to surface interdiction missions deep in the territory of your adversary. If drones were capable of doing this, Israel would never endanger the lives of its pilots using US made planes to attack Iranians in Syria. Armenia bought Russian made planes since these are the ones it can afford. During his visit to Brussels, Pashinian was literally chasing Trump and his wife for an opportunity to exchange a few words but to no avail. Later in New York, almost 50 US representatives wrote to Trump suggesting he meets Pashinian but again nothing. The truth is that US or at least Trump doesn’t give a damn about Armenia. Maybe if Armenia had oil, Trump would wear Armenian taraz and dance with Pashinian! Maybe if his son in law was Armenian, he would recognize Stepanakert as the historical capital of Armenia. But for the time being, all that Bolton could offer Armenia in Yerevan was some Swedish planes which would end up being far more expensive and probably inferior to SU 30.

    • Who’s fault is it that the US ignores Armenia? My view, 100% the fault of Armenia. Example: Bolton and Merkel want “security in the Caucasus” so that the oil/gas keeps flowing to Israel and/or Europe – and who do they visit to ask for such security? Azerbaijan – the nation which in their view is the one that is “relevant”. If Armenia cared anything about its future and wanted to assert itself as a viable state you know what would be happening? The likes of Bolton and Merkel would run to Armenia and BEG for “security in the Caucasus”. This is how idiotic and INCOMPETENT the Armenian leadership is. Only idiots accept the condition of: your enemy needs money from oil and pumps it, gets rich and builds its military while shooting at you and being the aggressor instead of begging you not to shoot them instead. This is the reality that Armenia is in thanks to Armenian INCOMPETENCE for statehood combined with a phony Russian “alliance”.

  3. Why must you condensé everything into such a binary relationship? “If Trump won’t give us what we want, we should just accept whatever the Russians push on us”. The SU-30 is a great plane, no one is denying that. The question is wether or not it fits Armenia’s needs. Ferrari’s are great cars but some times a Honda Accord does a better job of driving you to and from work.

    Baku is 450 KM away from Yerevan, that’s less than 45 minute flight time. That certainly doesn’t qualify as “long range” for an aircraft that’s capable of conducting operations as far away as Sudan (3000 KM range). Maybe our next purchase from Russia should be an aircraft carrier, you know, to protect Lake Sevan.

    • You really oversimplify things. Again, it is naïve to think that Armenia is going to buy these planes just because Russia wants them to buy. Armenia needs to modernize its air force and these planes are the ones that Armenia needs at the present time. Not many countries manufacture modern military planes and not many would offer Armenia a loan and discount like Russia does. I have absolutely no doubt that if US offered similar conditions to Armenia for the purchase of F15s, Armenia would have bought it from US. Your Ferrari analogy makes no sense. SU-30 is not a luxury item. A better analogy would have been, lets say, a 2015 Silverado vs a 2005 Accord. Yes, you can always buy Accord but a newer Silverado can do much more, if you really need it. To make your point, you focus on the range while there are many factors to consider when making this kind of purchase. Su-30 is multirole, its avionics, its payload is far ahead of Su-27 or Mig-29.

    • Ritooli

      You’re simply repeating the same statement you made earlier “if the government made a purchase, then there must be a logical reason for it” – unfortunately, governments make decisions on spending with political rather than practical considerations ALL-THE-TIME.

      You’re missing the point: Armenia DOES NOT NEED such sophisticated weaponry for its needs, and likely can’t afford their upkeep. What Armenian troops need (as the article points out) is the ability to maintain close-air-support and resupply options on the battlefield. A plane that can sustain long-range strike missions in Sudan isn’t necessarily right for the mountainous terrain (with the airspace of less than 1050 KM).

    • Hagop,

      That is not what I said. I never said if they bought it, then we need it. What I said is that there is no logical justification for the argument that this is a political move. Armenia could have bought anything from Russia, if this was merely a show of loyalty. They could have bought choppers, tanks, missiles…It’s not like these 4 planes are going to have any significant impact on the plane-maker in Russia financially. Plus, the idea of purchasing them goes back to 2012 and according to Kommersant, Armenia wanted 6 of them but got only 4. So why would they ask for 6, if they forced to buy it?!
      I don’t know where this ridiculous idea comes from that in case of a new large-scale war, it is going to be only confined to Artsakh. Like it or not, Azerbaijan will target Yerevan and it is going to be a very easy target for them. Armenia will need to retaliate. Armenia can not only rely on missiles to target Azerbaijan’s strategic assets. The nonsense constantly repeated by the previous administration that we will fight an asymmetric war is pure bs. Our soldiers didn’t have boots and underwear yet Seyran Ohanian had the money to build himself a mansion in Vahakni taghamas. If spent wisely, the 600 million plus budget is enough to maintain a normal air force. Either we want Artsakh or not, if we want it then we have to spend on it.

    • Ritooli.

      Judging on the article, there is a clear [diplomatic] explanation for this purchase for why Russia insisted on Armenia buying these jets, and not the other things (which they could ALSO buy from Russia) – Back in 2015, Moscow pushed Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia (and eventually Kyrgyzstan) to integrate their airspace defense with Russias. Since the SU-27 (original 30) was designed in Soviet times specifically to defend the vast territory of the USSR, it makes sense that the Russians would want its “allies” to use the same aircraft to defend almost the same airspace. In other words, these planes aren’t really about Armenia’s defense priorities, they’re about Russia’s defense priority. I mean, why else would they only buy 4 planes? What could they do with 4? that’s not even a full squadron. (Squadrons usually have 12 or more aircraft)

    • The article says many things which makes no sense. Russia has his own base in Armenia. They have a whole bunch of fighters in Armenia and no, not all the fighters they keep in Armenia are SU-30. Russia will never rely on Armenia’s Air Force to protect Armenian airspace against a possible Turkish attack. All soviet-Russian built fighters can potentially be integrated into CSTO air defense, it doesn’t have to be SU-30! You seem to contradict yourself. If 4 is useless then why would even Russia encourage Armenians to buy them? As I said in previous comment, Armenians wanted 6 but got only 4 since they are buying it as part of a loan. Artsrun Hovhannisyan said it very clearly in an interview that they look at this as only the first batch and are hopeful to purchase more in the future. Fighters are not pants to make them specifically to your size. You choose the one that better fits your needs. The range might be too much but it has many other modern features that other Russian fighters lack, specially if we exclude the very last ones like Pakfa that Russians wouldn’t sell them to Armenia anyway.
      Anyway, nice talking to you. I rest my case.

    • I also don’t think you appreciate just how small Armenia is. Even if the War expands to Armenia proper that’s still VERY restrictive airspace: Yerevan is only about 150 miles away from Stepanakert (350 Miles from Baku) – It would take a jet plane about 21 minutes to fly the distance from Gyumri to Martuni. Russia has many other planes in its inventory that cost a third of the price tag that can easily carry weapons payloads across such small distances.

  4. Russia is the alpha and the omega of Armenian statehood. For the past two hundred years an Armenia has lived not because of Armenians and Diasporans but because of Russia and Russians. Without the Russian factor in the south Caucasus, Armenians would still be herding animals in the eastern Turkey and making carpets in northern Iran as second class minorities. Without Russian support, Armenia today won’t even last a week in a nasty Turkic-Islamic place like the South Caucasus. In a nutshell: Russia is the fundamental reason why we have a homeland the South Caucasus. What I just said is difficult to accept/admit, especially for an arrogant/proud people like us Armenians, but what I said is truth and reality. It’s best to embrace truth and admit reality than continue lying to yourself which inevitably leads to disaster, as it has so many times in the past.

    Russia today is perhaps the last cradle of western/European classical civilization. Russia today is also the last hope for Apostolic Christianity in the world. Not only do we Armenians desperately need Russians for political, military and economic reasons, we also need them for CULTURAL reasons. Armenian culture flourished during the past two hundreds years (e.g. classically trained composers, musicians, poets, writers, painters, sculptors, academics, scientists, etc) because of Armenian raw talent coupled with Russian influences in Armenia. Today, Armenian raw talent is literally going to waste. Armenian culture today is DEAD because of Anglo-American-Afro-Jewish influences that have flooded the country in the post-Soviet period. Sadly, the American-Armenian community has been Uncle Sam’s pack animal (the conveyor of Western toxicity) in this regard. Let me put it to you this way: Soviet Armenia gave us Aram Khachtryan, post Soviet Armenia gave us Aram Asatryan. Soviet Armenia gave us the Alikhanyan brothers, post Soviet Armenia gave us the Kardashian sisters. Western influences during the past 30 somewhat years have all but killed Armenian culture.

    And, since I know it will come up, I have NO PROBLEMS whatsoever with Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan. All the emotional/alarming talk we hear about this non-issue is the cheep scare tactics of our Russophobes. In fact, I rather see more Russian leverage over Baku. Arms sales equals leverage. I want to see Azerbaijan inside Russia’s orbit as well. The alternative (i.e. Azerbaijan fully inside Turkish and/or Western orbit) is disastrous for the entire region. This is why Moscow wants to stay engaged in Baku. That is also works to our benefit. At the end of the day, as long as Russians are providing Armenia with modern and affordable weapons systems and countermeasures to what’s found in the Azeri military, I don’t care about what Moscow sells to Baku. At the end of the day, if Russians don’t sell to them, they will get what they want from elsewhere. I rather see Russia gain leverage over Baku and make money in the process, money that that Moscow will use to provide Armenia with affordable but formidable weapons systems like the Iskander ballistic missile system and SU-30 SM multi-role, heavy fighter.

    • Finally someone who expressed logical arguments, sounds a realist and utters the truth without sugar coating anything to mask realities. I hope you are leading the Armenian nation but I understand why you want to remain anonymous Mr concerned Armenian. The anonymous nature of the post highlights a great contemporary weakness amongst Armenians and that is the fear to speak the truth and be identified at the same time for fear of being labelled unpatriotic.

    • 110% right, many of us think that way, but armenians are blind, naive, and politically ignorant. They have always paid for their leaders incompetence & mistakes.

    • Hagop and Noubar,
      Thank you. I see there still is hope for our people.

      Please allow me to share some more thoughts. Too often Armenians blame Russians for giving Armenian lands to Turks and Azeris one hundred years ago, and helping Azerbaijan war effort against Armenians of Artsakh some thirty years ago.

      Here is what we are failing to see: Each political system and each time period needs to be looked at and assessed separately. So, with that in mind, understand that Russia today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. The Soviet Union of yesterday is not the Russian Empire of the day before. Etcetera. Each time period, each political system had a unique political climate and geopolitical calculus.

      The Bolsheviks that came to overthrow the Russian Czar one hundred years ago were not ethnic “Russians”. Bolshevism was not a “Russian” system of government. The Bolsheviks were a Western funded Marxist movement most of whom were Jews. Their task was to destroy the Russian Empire which had fallen weak after four centuries in power. In fact, there were more Armenians in the Bolshevik leadership than ethnic Russians. Russia/Russians suffered by-far the most under pre-Stalinian Bolshevism. Do some research and you will see that Bolsheviks not only killed millions of Russians, decimated the Russian Orthodox Church and aristocracy, looted the empire’s massive wealth – they also gave lands controlled by the Russian Empire to various other nations, not only Armenian populated lands but also Russian populated lands. The Bolsheviks were even discussing doing away with the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. In any case, too often we Armenians have tunnel vision. Too often we can’t see past our egos. Are we as a people incapable of seeing the bigger picture? Perhaps. Perhaps that is why Armenia has suffered so terribly at the hands of Armenians for centuries.

      Regarding the help Moscow gave Azerbaijan 30 years ago: It’s simple. The Politburo was simply trying to keep the borders of the Soviet Union intact. Any political system would have done the same under such circumstances. After 1991, after the Soviet collapse that is, Russians began supporting Armenians – which is why we eventually won the war. Through it all however, there was never talk in the Kremlin about destroying Armenia as a nation. For the far-way West, Armenia is a pawn to be used/exploited against Russia and Iran. For Russia, Armenia is a vitally/crucially important piece of real-estate that she is willing to spill the blood of her sons over. This is the fundamental difference between Russia and the West. Even Bolsheviks, who gave away Russian and Armenian lands, were sober enough to recognize that they needed an Armenia in the region. This recognition by the Communist system is why Armenia was allowed to become an industrialized republic. The point is, after 1921 the Bolsheviks, and Stalin afterwards, could have easily erased Armenia from the map, but they didn’t because even they understood the value of an Armenia. Needless to say, men like Mikoyan brothers played a positive role in this regard.

      Today’s Russia looks at Armenia as a highly strategic piece of territory that needs to remain within the Russian orbit at all costs. This is why Russia has willingly become Armenia’s lifeline during the post-Soviet years. And what exactly is that lifeline? Affordable modern weaponry; affordable energy; nuclear power plant maintenance; large loans and investments; largest trade and tourism; providing hundreds of thousands of unemployed Armenians work in Russia. Think about this massive lifeline Russia is providing Armenia, then think about men like David Boyajian making ultimatums to Russia. I reiterate: Armenia can survive losing the Diaspora. Armenia cannot survive losing Russia.

      It worries me greatly that many Armenians today (perhaps a majority in the north American Diaspora) do not comprehend this.

      Instead of fear-mongering and badmouthing Russians (the ones who keep Armenia alive, the ones who also stopped another Western-backed genocide from taking place in Syria), we need to use our natural talents to be in Russia what Jews are in the United States. In other words, we need to collectively try our best to harness the massive potential of a friendly superpower like Russia. Alarmingly, we are doing the exact opposite. We are preaching closer relations with the Western world, supposedly to “balance” Russia’s influence in Armenia. Closer relations with the West will only give us cultural decline (liberalism, multiculturalism, interracialism, homosexuality, celebrity worship, consumerism, low quality pop culture, etc), societal decline (USAID, George Soros), financial slavery (IMF, World Bank) and ecological disaster (Monsanto, GMOs). A “Westernized” Armenia is seriously vulnerable Armenia in front of her predatory, Turkic-Islamic neighbors. A “Westernized” Armenia will also make the Kremlin deeply distrustful of Armenians. It’s a formula for disaster. And the Westernized/Americanized Diaspora in north America has a hand in it. It astounds me that more Armenians do not see all this…

    • How do you know Armenians would be herding animals today if not for Russian? Have you peeked in some alternative universe? And how can post Soviet Armenia give us Kardashians, when Kardashians are only 1/2 Armenian pornographers and from the USA? What the post Soviet Armenia gave us is communist criminals who degraded Armenian identity and culture where ever they migrated, to the detriment of diasporans. If Russia was a true ally, they would not sell weapons to Azerbaijan, period. Can you imagine the USA selling weapons to enemies of Israel? On the contrary, USA arms Israel to the teeth to deter its enemies. Historical (western) Armenia is extinct and Armenia today is nothing more than a Russian outpost in the Caucasus since the Bolshevik invasion and occupation with the help traitors.

  5. The Sukhoi-30 is a formidable aircraft at a bargain price. It’s far superior than anything manufactured in the west. For eg., in a close dogfight, it is the only aircraft in the world that can do the cobra maneuver, this allows its pilot to prevail over the enemy aircraft. The fact that it can travel long distances, allows the pilot lots of time to raise havoc over nearby hostile territory without having to go back to refuel. In any combat, air superiority is a must, and the Su-30 gives the armenian forces this opportunity. Without it, they would be sitting ducks to enemy aircraft.
    As for Pres. Trump turning his back to PM Pashinyan, is of no consequence. However, if pres. Putin did this, it would be disastrous for Armenia. Let us remember what happened in 1920, when the West (Usa, Britain & France deceived the govnmt. of the 1st republic).

    • How do you even know it’s a bargain price? They didn’t announce the per-unit cost and didn’t even talk about the cost of training pilots, fuel consumption, missile payload, spare parts and maintenance. It seems to me like you’re just making assumptions about a topic you don’t know much about.

  6. Well done Armenia. This Su-30 variant is an extremely powerful plane that will enhance offensive capabilities. It has avoidance systems to counter enemy’s air defenses. This is considered a 4+ generation fighter but has avionics and radar that are more advanced than other planes in its class, and all for domestic Russian prices. Excellent choice.

    It’s silly to say that Armenia doesn’t need this because of Artsakh’s mountainous terrain. These
    Planes will be just as effective in mountainous regions. Besides, long range artillery and missile systems are kept deep inside of Azerbaijan territories and a plane like this is exactly what’s needed to take them out. Our war planners know exactly what they’re doing so all those couch generals preaching otherwise go back to strategizing the next NBA game and leave the serious stuff to the men. After all you won’t be the one on the receiving end of enemy missile barrages. And Raffi Eliot, please don’t quote that idiot Richard Giragossian anymore, he’s a CIA asset working against Armenia’s interest. Don’t believe me? Look up his history.

    • I think you’re missing the point.

      The SU-30 has a minimum range of over 3000 KM, that’s overkill. Azerbaijan’s biggest artillery piece, the Smersh BM-30, has a range of (only) 90 KM, while Baku is only ~500 KM away from Yerevan. If Armenia really needed to buy new planes, there are dozens of other options, which are both cheaper, and more effective in this terrain.

    • Vardan, I think it’s you who is missing the point.

      Armenia’s problem is not only Azeribjan. I think you forgot Turkey. I somewhat agree with you that the SU-30 may be overkill for Azerbaijan… but it’s just the right weapon to put up against Turkey, if need be. In ample numbers, an aircraft like the SU-30 SM can give Armenia overwhelming air superiority over ALL its neighbors. Let’s start with a few (they are not easy to master or maintain) and grow from them. God bless Russia. God bless Armenia.

      PS: I can’t beleive there are complaints about this. Not too long ago our Russophobes were attacking Russians for refusing to give Armenia modern warplanes… Now, our Russophobes are attacking Russians because they are providing Armenia with modern warplanes?! Armenians! Go figure…

    • Concerned:

      I’m not sure what 4 SU-30s can hope to accomplish against the entire Turkish airforce and air-defence apparatus. The Erebuni airbase is so close to Turkey that the turks can shoot down these planes before they even take off. Having gone through some of your other comments in this thread, it seems to me that you insist on viewing any discussion on this topic in a binary “pro-Russia” vs. “Russophobic” lens. The article does not claim that buying weapons from Russia is inherently bad, or wrong. The question is if we’re buying the right equipment for our security needs. Russia builds many other aircraft models that could much better fit Armenia’s arsenal, like the Mil Mi-28 Helicopter gunship, or the Yakovlev Yak-130 (a smaller jet, which can easily be adapted to ground support roles) – these two alternatives are both modern Russian aircraft that could be much better suited for any future war in Artsakh.

    • Vardan,

      I would advise you to leave military matter to people who actually understand military matters. In reality, it’s the region’s Russian-Armenian anti-aircraft systems that can ground Turkish warplanes hundreds of kilometers inside Turkey. I am not even talking about modern, electronic/electromagnetic anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems that are in Russia’s military arsenals, some of which are based in Armenia. Moreover, I clearly said in my comment to you that the 4 SU-30 SM warplanes are only the beginning. We should use this great opportunity provided to us by Moscow to learn the weapons system in question and train ground crews and pilots for it. We can thereafter grow its potential as a military deterrent against regional threats.

      For small, weak or vulnerable nations like Armenia, geopolitics and geostrategy boils down to how you position yourself in Superpower politics. So, yes, all this, at its core, is a simply matter of either being Russophobic or being pro-Russian. There is no in between in politics, especially for weak nations. You got to pick one or the other side. It’s obvious what side Armenia has to pick. Those that say Armenians should be pro-Armenian and not pro-Russian or pro-Western are simply blowing hot air. Such people are in-effect actually preaching pro-Westernism because in a geopolitical tug-or-war, if you are not on the side of one Superpower, you are by default on the side of the other Superpower. Needless to say, despite the bombastic/arrogant/boastful rhetoric of all our brave “nationalists”, an Armenia without Russian boots on the ground is an Armenia that won’t last long in a Turkic-Islamic cesspool like the South Caucasus.

      So, as you see my friend, it all does boil down to whether you are pro-Russian or anti-Russian…

  7. A small country without a wealth of natural resources coveted by major nations around the world, must be a part of one coalition or another. Were I the Cayman Islands I would choose the USA over Brazil. Were I Armenia, I would choose Russia over any other nation in the region. There is basic alignment of state recognized religion. there is a history of political and military alignment. The US has been a fickle superpower, even more so now under it’s idiotic administration. RealPolitik is what matters.

    • Concerned Armenian & ArmenianAmerican,
      I agree with you & I hope others will see the reality. Let me remind everyone, that in 1920 we agitated Lenin, meanwhile Ataturk flirted with Lenin. In return, a defeated Turkey (WWI) obtained gold & heavy guns, which was used to expel the Greeks from Asia minor forever and recapture Western Armenia from a weak isolated Armenia. History may repeat itself, if Armenia does not play its cards right. Currently, Russia is building a nuclear reactor in Turkey & is supplying or will supply them with Iskandar 9 rockets. Therefore, Armenian politicians should stop dreaming & see to it that Turkey does not sit on Putin’s lap as she did in 1920, to the disadvantage of Armenia & Greece.

  8. Interesting, constructive dialogue and spirited discussion.
    The purchase of these 4 fighter planes, in my view, is more symbolic politically than a military strategic decision. A nice photo-op for Pashinian sitting in the cockpit.
    In a full scale war, 4 planes do not make a material difference.
    I have lived through two wars between Israel and Egypt/Arab countries. Both wars were
    dominated by the Israeli air force. Not a few planes, but swarms of planes that covered the skies and hit their targets.
    Russia’s help and support should be appreciated and Pashinian has a very sensitive and difficult balancing act.

    Vart Adjemian

  9. @vardan
    Can you please suggest an alternate comparable aircraft with comparable radar defensive and offensive capabilities?

    • Gurgen2-

      Sure, first, I would point out that I agree with the article: Armenia probably doesn’t need fixed-wing aircraft. They could use that $100M loan to buy the new generation of Russian helicopter gunships, like the Mil Mi-28 (or even just upgrade the radars for the current Hinds). If we need fixed wing aircraft, I would suggest updating the current Su-25s with modern avionics, radars, etc, OR order the Russian-built Yakovlev Yak-130, which is Much MUCH cheaper, has lower operating costs and can be adapted for a ground support role. I think people need to keep in mind that any potential war between Armenia and Azerbaijan would take place in a battlefield that is between 150 and 450KMs wide; (that’s so small that a modern interceptor couldn’t even reach its maximum speed before overshooting the battlefield altogether) again, SU-30 is a great plane (I guess, but I’m not expert) but this is probably not the right job for it.

  10. Very predictable Apparatchik responses, with a couple of clueless “supporters” to boot. Just because you read a lengthy kremlin sponsored diatribe it doesn’t make it true. Your obedience to “Mother Russia” is showing, not to Armenia, thus the “concerned” part is for Russia in fact, not Armenia. Even if these planes are given to Armenia for FREE, it would still be too expensive, if we count how many billions Russia owes Armenia throughout history. Let’s forget history (such as Armenia giving its soul to save Russia in WWII with absolutely nothing to show for in return) and calculate how much Russia owes Armenia in the recent few decades. Can we come up with a figure?

    -How much does Russia owe Armenia for Russia making Russia great again and making Armenia pay for it… the FREE military base for Russia to protect Russian interests and making the poor people of Armenia foot the bill.

    -How much does Russia owe Armenia for forcing Armenia to sit on its ass and not do a damn thing to Azerbaijan while young Armenian soldiers have been getting murdered for 30 years in a so-called “cease fire treaty” forced on Armenia by Russia?

    -How much does Russia owe Armenia for not standing in solidarity with Armenia as a supposed “ally” against Turkey and thus preventing Armenia from winning the war and thus saving Azerbaijan in the Artsakh war, and all up until this time Armenia being shut out of any economic benefits (which Georgia benefited from until now)?

    -How much does Russia owe Armenia for sabotaging Armenia’s relations with Iran to freely and independently make gas pipeline deals to benefit Armenia in the future and possibly act as a transit hub for Iranian gas to Europe when all the smoke about Iran clears?

    -How much does Russia owe Armenia for forcing Armenia to join the low tier “EEU” instead of Europe and getting into much better shape economically?

    Shall I go on? At this point why don’t you Apparatchiks just come out and admit it: there is no such thing as “Armenia” in your world, the world starts and ends with “Mother Russia”, your “alpha and omega”. One silly diaspora person here is even claiming “I hope you are leading the nation”. Seriously? What a joke! Such apparatchiks have been “leading” Armenia for the past century and running it into the ground for the benefit of “Mother Russia”. That’s the reason that Armenia is in its pitiful desperate state today.

    And for the millionth time, stop claiming the bullshit that “Armenia wouldn’t exist if not for Russia”. You don’t know that because you are not a psychic who peeked into the historical alternatives that transpired with your crystal ball. Anyone who ignorantly claims this is a first class Simpleton with a capital S. Stop making your stupid ex-post facto argument over and over, you will NEVER change facts. For the millionth time: the Russians supplied Ataturk with money and weapons for the Turks to invade Armenia and next have Azerbaijan take all of south Armenia so that Armenia would no longer be a state. Njdeh stopped that plan which is why he ended up dead in a Russian prison. And I don’t give a SHIT if it was “Zionists” that did it. They still did it in the name and resources of Russia and Russia needs to own this fact. And 200 years ago there was no such thing as a country named “Armenia” so stop spreading these false historical claims of “For the past two hundred years an Armenia has lived not because of Armenians and Diasporans but because of Russia and Russians”. No, every Armenian can recognize that Armenia was re-established on previous Russian territory, and be thankful that Russia allowed it, or perhaps had no choice due to the Bolshevik Revolution, regardless… and this is no different than AZERBAIJAN AND GEORGIA!



    In fact they did the opposite of both of these. Not only did they NOT create Armenia, but they started working with Turks to cut up Armenia. AND THEY SUCCEEDED, the proof is in today’s map. For the last time. The revolutionaries of WWI and the ARF are what re-created Armenia and NOTHING and NO ONE else!!!!!

    • >How much does Russia owe Armenia for Russia making Russia great again and making Armenia pay for it… the FREE military base for Russia to protect Russian interests and making the poor people of Armenia foot the bill.

      Literally nothing. Take into account Russia’s enormous loans to Armenia.

      >How much does Russia owe Armenia for forcing Armenia to join the low tier “EEU” instead of Europe and getting into much better shape economically

      Armenian (1) wouldn’t be accepted in EU either way, (2) can benefit greatly from EEU, (3) has to act in favour of Russia just to maintain good relations, which is absolutely normal.



      During some periods Armenians enjoyed an almost privileged position in the Russian Empire and USSR, it’s stupid to deny this simple fact.

      >>>>>In fact they did the opposite of both of these. Not only did they NOT create Armenia, but they started working with Turks to cut up Armenia. AND THEY SUCCEEDED, the proof is in today’s map. For the last time. The revolutionaries of WWI and the ARF are what re-created Armenia and NOTHING and NO ONE else!!!!!

      Of course, Russians didn’t want Armenians to form an independent state, but at least in the Russian Empire Armenians were in safety. It’s common knowledge that Russian public opinion has always been pro-armenian and didn’t share westerners’ racist views on them. Western countries are largely (just like Russia) responsible for the current unfortunate state or Armenians. I wish you mentioned Britain’s diplomacy, Germany’s weltpolitik and France’s treason as reasons for armenians’ sufferings

  11. Also vardan you’re wrong by saying Azerbaijan’s biggest artillery piece is the smerch. They have acquired large quantities of Israeli and Belarusian rocket systems with ranges of over 200km and accuracy of up to 10m. They will be kept far from the front line. Also the S300 systems that Azerbaijan has to protect the oil infrastructure are hundreds of km from the front lines which need to be taken out and these planes can be used for thar purpose while counteracting their defensive systems.

  12. Vardan,
    I’m not an aircraft expert but I believe you’re comparing apples to oranges. The Su25s are specifically close range and heavily armoured ground attack planes and Armenia’s aging fleet, bought 2nd hand from Slovakia i think in 2003 are either rapidly approaching or have passed their use-by dates. If you recall one of them recently crashed killing both experienced pilots so not a good idea upgrading those. However a new batch, improved after Russia’s experience in Syria would certainly be nice.
    Modernized attack helicopters and more of them would be great too as would the light-weight sub-sonic yak130s but not quite the same ballpark as the su30sm. Concerned Armenian nailed it when he brought Turkey into the picture combined with capabilities of the Russian military base in Armenia. In the big picture, near and far, the Armenian military made an excellent choice and hopefully its only the beginning. Those who say that a poor Armenia should not be spending this kind of money on defense have no understanding of what it will cost if we go to war without these kinds of weapons. The material destruction and the population flight afterwards is something Armenia would never recover from, so as far as I’m concerned, spend a few billion upfront in all avenues of defence to prevent complete destruction later while simultaneously strengthen the relationship with three countries that have it in their interests to have a stable, turk-free and nato-free Armenia in the south Caucasus – Russia, Iran and China. Our politicians should be lobbying their balls off in those countries instead of prancing around like beggars looking for hanouts and pats on the back in Switzerland, Berlin or Paris.

    • Putting the crazy political objectives you just laid out aside:

      Russian forces in Armenia act as a deterrent because they represent a diplomatic presence not because of their actual fighting ability. – Their reason for being there is to prevent Turkey from ever considering invasion in the first place, not to win wars. If Turkey decided to invade Armenia, the 4000 Russian personnel would be immediately swept aside (I don’t mean this as an insult to their bravery, there are simply too few of them). The Jets at Erebuni Airbase would be shot down on take-off before the Turkish soldiers even cross the border. (Erebuni Airbase is only about 9 miles away from the Turkish border – well within the range of even the most basic MANPADs) —> the point is, the Russian boots on the ground are meant to remind Turkey that invading Armenia would mean killing Russian soldiers and therefore triggering a war with Russian- something Turkey wants to avoid. They’re NOT there to actively repel an invasion. So really, they could put whatever planes they want in Erebuni because they’re presence is kind of symbolic, not just tactical.

      I don’t see what’s wrong with having a subsonic aircraft in Armenia – A jet plane would take about 15-20 minutes to cross the entire country, it would never be able to use supersonic speeds anyway.

    • During general discussions between experts in Armenia on this topic I was vehemently under the impression that the money could be better spent on ground troops and hardening up defences on the front line. But considering this is a loan to purchase tech from Russia, the deterrent value of both the Iskander and SU-30 and (obviously with proper tactics) can bring Azerbaijan to it’s knees. Yes, they are very close in also purchasing 4+ generation fighters as well and might purchase there own ballistic missiles soon, but the SU-30 can easily fly undetected to Baku and cause havoc and nothing can compare to the hyper-sonic capabilities of the Iskander. Of course this is hypothetical but the whole idea isn’t tactical(use on the border of Artsakh) its a larger strategic deterrent that the fighter brings to Armenia. Now, this coupled with the Iskander hyper-sonic theatre ballistic missiles which can’t even be shot down by patriots missiles gives Armenia the upper hand for a while. On top of that, with the protection of Armenia’s air defence assets which are pretty robust in nature, Armenia is projecting a significant amount of military might at the moment. Whether it stays this way, I don’t know. Lastly, the jamming pods that the SU-30 can load will beat any other 4+ generation fighter even if Azerbaijan was to purchase a new batch of jets so ultimately these larger fighter have their advantages. More importantly, we are forgetting the stand off weapons that this beast can carry with its powerful radar it can possibly(SM doesn’t tell us much plus we don’t know what the Russian provided) shoot cruise missiles from about 200km away under the protection of our air defence. Something has been on Armenia’s side after the April war, I don’t want to get political, I would love to say the Diaspora is making moves or even say that Russia has woken up and realised we are the only ally but in reality it just boils down to Armenians inadvertent ability to survive as a nation. Nothing mythical, just a clockwork behaviour that is inbuilt in us. I couldn’t resist to add that there is no doubt in my mind that we would be raising cattle if it wasn’t for Russia, we would of been left in Turkey and Iran among the Azerbaijanis of Northern Iran. Russia might have not been the best ally during our history, but it does not compare to the Germany’s, Frances and Britain’s culpability in Armenia’s fate in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Ultimately, I agree with every single comment from Concerned Armenian. That is not to say the the discussion hasn’t been quality with both sides of the coin very convincing.

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