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A Sukhoi Su-30MKI outfitted with ASTRA air-to-air missiles with a range beyond optical range.

According to rumours, Armenia is “desperate” for India to supply armaments and train fighter pilots for its Russian-built Su-30SM Flanker fighter jets. While no such agreement has been revealed, New Delhi could undoubtedly enhance these Armenian planes significantly. Is that, however, a top priority for Yerevan? According to a global portal.

India boasts a massive fleet of 272 Su-30MKI Flankers, the majority of which were constructed under licence by New Delhi. Apart from operating a significant number of these aircraft for the past two decades, India has also obtained and developed potent non-Russian weapons for them.

“What distinguishes the Indian Su-30MKI from other Flankers in the globe is the magnificent integration of numerous weaponry, sensors, and avionics from around the world,” an elite Indian fighter pilot told local media in January.

Among these weapons is an air-launched version of the indigenous BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which provides the Su-30MKI with significant standoff capability, as well as the Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BRAAM).

India-Armenia defence ties have grown considerably in recent months. When it ordered four batteries for an estimated $250 million in 2022, Yerevan became the first foreign customer for the Indian-built Pinaka multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS). Furthermore, the two countries are concerned about Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan’s increasing trilateral military connections. As a result, it would make sense for them to work together to upgrade Armenia’s Su-30 fleet.

The Su-30SM fighter in service with the Armenian Air Force may receive an unexpected update from India. The Su-30SM can carry both the Astra air-to-air missile and the BrahMos air-launched air-to-surface missile.

The Armenian Air Force possesses 14 combat aircraft. Ten Su-25K and four Su-30SM aircraft. Moscow purchased four planes, despite Yerevan’s initial desire to purchase three times as many. However, the month-long battle that erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 revealed a long-denied fact by the government: the planes were sent from Moscow without ammunition. This sparked popular outrage towards Armenia’s Ministry of Defense and ruling bodies.

Years ago, Yerevan made a mistake by refusing to pay Moscow for the armament of its fighter jets. During the commencement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan used Israeli Harop kamikaze drones and Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones to strike Armenian sites. As a result, the Su-30SM was mockingly dubbed the “White Elephant” after the war’s end.

India is now prepared to mend Armenia’s faults by assisting it. In recent years, the two countries have inked a military cooperation deal, and their relationship is improving. According to reports, Yerevan is set to begin negotiations to arm and modernise its Su-35SM aircraft.

Russia can carry out this order, but not right now. Its whole military power is devoted to the fight with Ukraine. Any delay by Russia would be devastating for Armenia. However, India does not go to war; it produces its own missiles for its fighters and, specifically, the Su-30MKI under a Russian licence. The experience of India, whose Air Force comprises of almost 220 Su-30MKI jets, might be extremely beneficial to Armenia.

The Indian Flanker-E is among the most capable combat aircraft in its class. New Delhi has made significant investments in the development of its armaments. In India, the Su-30MKI modifications are referred as as “wonderful integration,” referring to the combination of Astra and BrahMos missiles.

It is an undeniable reality that if Armenia turns to New Delhi, it will be able to not only modernise its warriors but also greatly boost their fighting potential. According to Indian sources, the S-30SM will be more lethal in this arrangement. Particularly today, when Yerevan cannot afford to buy new jets.

Military analysts argue that modernising Armenia’s combat aircraft is preferable than purchasing new ones, not just for financial reasons, but also to discourage Azerbaijan. In other words, the procurement of new fighters would prompt Baku to expand its aerial combat aircraft arsenal. There is even a prospective supplier now: the Sino-Pakistani JF-17. A squadron of JF-17s armed with Chinese PL-15 BVRAAMs would be terrible for Armenia.

As a result, the Armenian average strategy, i.e. renewal, is favoured. The Astra and BrahMos missiles can be readily and swiftly integrated beneath the wings of the four Su-30SMs by Indian technicians. This will allow Yerevan to utilise the Su-30SM beyond visual range to engage Azerbaijani targets, conserving the pricey fighters.

Armenia and India are in a position where only friendship between the two countries will benefit both. Particularly in light of the trilateral exercises between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan. Pakistan, in particular, provides armaments to Azerbaijan, while Baku, on the other hand, has given Islamabad with geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geostrategic advantages.

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