By Emil Danielyan
Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekian on Saturday confirmed reports that Armenia purchased ten Russian-made military aircraft from Slovakia last year, significantly boosting its modest air force.
“They are fully capable of performing combat tasks,” he said of the Su-25 single-seat, close-support jets. “The new aircraft enhanced our military potential.”
Aghabekian declined to disclose the cost of the aircraft purchase, saying that he had no part in the hitherto unpublicized deal. He also insisted that the Su-25s are not outdated despite having been used by the Slovak military for over a decade.
“All pieces of military hardware which Armenia acquires are combat-ready and are being constantly upgraded,” Aghabekian told reporters. He also did not rule out more deliveries of used aircraft to the Armenian military in the near future.
Su-25, codenamed Frogfoot by NATO, is primarily designed to attack ground targets with air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided and cluster bombs. It is also equipped with a twin-barrel gun capable of firing 3,000 rounds per minute. The warplane is mainly used by the armed forces of Russia and other ex-Soviet states as well as former members of the Warsaw Pact, including Slovakia. Slovakia joined NATO along with three other former Communist countries of Eastern Europe in 2002 and has since been gradually switching to NATO standards and armaments.
The low-flying aircraft and its 500 kilogram cluster bombs in particular were commonly used by Azerbaijan during the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s fleet of Su-25s was much small and their involvement in the war was minimal. The Armenian military had only five such jets when the fighting was stopped in May 1994. The Slovak delivery is thus a major boost to its capability.
Two correspondents of the British magazine “Air Forces” were the first journalists that were allowed to see the Slovak Su-25s at the main Armenian air force base in Gyumri last summer. “Unusually, the recently acquired Slovak Su-25Ks have retained the color scheme and the national insignia of the Slovak Air Force,” they wrote in the August edition of the publication.
“No precise details are known as to the future of the Armenian Air Force, but we are able to say that the Armenians are intending to build up a small, but well-organized, air force,” they concluded.