Nikolay Dimidyuk of the state-run Rosoboronexport company was quoted this week by the Moscow-based magazine “Voenno-Promyshlenny Kurier” as saying that Armenian officials showed an interest in the BM-30 Smerch (Tornado) multiple launch rocket systems during a recent international arms exhibition in Minsk.
Dimidyuk said that they as well as military officials from Kazakhstan held “interesting negotiations” with Rosoboronexport representatives in the Belarusian capital. “These were not mere courtesy visits, we discussed concrete issues,” he said.
“We have not cooperated so closely with members states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) before,” added the Russian official.
The Armenian Defense Ministry declined to confirm or deny this information. “Armenia’s armed forces are constantly supplied with new and modern weaponry,” ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It is not expedient to divulge details of our arms purchases.”
A Defense Ministry source, who asked not to be identified, said in that context that the Armenian army already possesses Smerch systems.
Developed in the early 1980s, Smerch is arguably the most powerful multiple launch rocket system in the world. It can fire twelve 300-milimeter rockets in a single salvo that lasts for less than a minute.
The truck-mounted systems are currently estimated to cost $12 million each. It is not clear whether Armenia can acquire them at a knockdown price or even free of charge thanks to its membership in the CSTO or a Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed last August. The agreement commits Moscow to supplying the Armenian military with “special military hardware.”
A possible purchase of Smerch rockets would highlight Armenia’s intensifying arms race with Azerbaijan, whose armed forces reportedly have at least 12 such systems.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said in February that the Armenian military received “unprecedented” quantities of modern weapons last year and will continue the build-up in 2011. Ohanian gave no details of those deliveries.
Yerevan officially confirmed in late December that it possesses Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles widely regarded as one of the world’s most potent anti-aircraft weapons. Earlier in December, President Serzh Sarkisian and his National Security Council approved a five-year plan to modernize Armenia’s armed forces. It envisages, among other things, the acquisition of long-range precision-guided weapons.