Armenia demonstrated on Friday for the first time four Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets which it has purchased from Russia.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and other Armenian officials watched at an airbase in Gyumri their test flights carried out by Russian pilots. Pashinian and Tonoyan then greeted the pilots and sat in one of the jets’ cockpits.
“Today is a very important day for us because state-of-the-art multirole Su-30SM planes, considered our main [arms] acquisition of this year, are arriving,” Pashinian said in video remarks broadcast live from the scene.
“This acquisition marks a turning out for the security of Armenia and our people,” he added.
A Russian-Armenian contract on the delivery of the Su-30SM jets was signed early this year. The financial terms of the deal are still not known.
Tonoyan said in February that Yerevan plans to buy eight more such aircraft in the coming years. Pashinian noted on Friday that the Armenian military has received their “first batch.”
The Armenian Air Force had no fighter jets until now. It consisted of 15 or so low-flying Su-25 aircraft designed for air-to-ground missions.
Su-30SM can perform a much broader range of military tasks with more long-range and precision-guided weapons. It is a modernized version of a heavy fighter jet developed by the Sukhoi company in the late 1980s. The Russian military first commissioned such jets in 2012.
The four warplanes arrived in Gyumri just days after the Armenian military demonstrated new and sophisticated air defense systems also acquired 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 drones.The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said on Monday that they will “considerably” strengthen Armenia’s air defenses.
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.