Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian flew to Beijing at the weekend on an official visit highlighting what appears to be growing military cooperation between Armenia and China.
A statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said Ohanian will meet with his Chinese counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, and other senior Chinese military officials.
“The delegation headed by the Armenian defense minister will also visit a special brigade, military districts, various [Chinese] army bases as well as large defense enterprises,” said the statement. It gave no further details.
Chinese-Armenian military ties appear to have deepened in the last few years. The two states signed January 2012 what the Armenian Defense Ministry called an “agreement on military and military-technical cooperation” during a visit to Yerevan by a high-level delegation from the Chinese National Defense Ministry. Several other Chinese military officials visited the Armenian capital in July 2012 to lecture Armenia’s top army generals on China’s traditional strategies of warfare.
A military source in Yerevan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in August that Armenia has acquired Chinese AR1A multiple-launch rocket systems with a firing range of up to 130 kilometers.
The Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of World Arms Trade (TsAMTO) confirmed the information in a report released last month. It said that the Armenian military received 6 such systems in 2011 as part of a deal worth an estimated $50 million.
AR1A, which China first demonstrated in 2009, is designed to attack concentrations of troops, command centers and important ground targets. Military experts say that it has many technological similarities with the Russian Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems, one of the most destructive weapons of its kind. Smerch rockets can hit targets up to 90 kilometers away.
Eighteen Smerch systems are reportedly among $1 billion worth of new offensive weapons which Russia began delivering to Azerbaijan earlier this year in line with defense contracts signed in 2011.
Armenia also has in its arsenal Chinese-made WM-80 multiple-launch systems with a firing range of up to 80 kilometers. It is thought to have acquired them in the late 1990s.