Armenia announced at the weekend that it has acquired new and sophisticated air defense systems from Russia.
With a firing range of at least 15 kilometers, the Tor-M2MK systems are designed to shoot down aircraft, cruise missiles, other rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles. They were first demonstrated in 2013 and deployed by the Russian military in 2017.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian revealed the acquisition of an undisclosed number of Tor-M2MK batteries on his Facebook page. “This is one of our most important [arms] acquisitions of this year,” he wrote under a selfie taken against the backdrop of such Russian-manufactured weapons mounted on trucks.
“I can’t say anything about the quantity [of the acquired weapons.] It’s a military secret,” added Pashinian.
The Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said the short-range systems will “considerably” strengthen Armenia’s air defenses.
“In terms of their mobility, gunfire effectiveness and ability to identify and hit small targets, these are unique systems which have also proved their effectiveness in the war in Syria,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Armenia had received more long-range surface-to-air missile systems, S-300 and Buk, from Russia years before the latest acquisition.
Pashinian and other officials in Yerevan also declined to disclose financial details of the deal highlighting the close Russian-Armenian military ties.
Armen Ashotian, the deputy chairman of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said later on Saturday that the Tor-M2MK systems are covered by a $100 million Russian loan which the former Armenian government secured in 2017 to buy more Russian weapons. The current government therefore cannot claim credit for their purchase, he said.
Hovannisian countered, however, that a Russian-Armenian contract on the delivery of Tor-M2MK was signed this year.
Under another contract apparently signed early this year, the Armenian Air Force is to get four Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets by the beginning of 2020. Yerevan plans to buy more such Russian warplanes in the following years.
Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan announced the impending delivery of a “new batch of newest weapons, ammunition and spare parts” to Armenia after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu in Moscow in August.
Tonoyan touted the 2019 arms acquisitions in a year-end video statement circulated by the government on Sunday. “Our armed forces will be getting stronger by the day and our firepower will be deadlier for the enemy,” he said.
Russia has always been the principal source of military hardware supplied to the Armenian army. Membership in Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) allows Armenia to acquire Russian weapons at knockdown prices and even for free.
Russia has also trained scores of Armenian army officers and cadets at its military academies. Visiting Armenia in October, Shoygu said that 248 Armenians are currently studying at 25 such institutions. Moscow and Yerevan are planning to “increase this number,” said the Russian defense minister.