- Nov 12, 2022
Rumor has it that Armenia is "keen" on having India supply weapons and train fighter pilots for its Russian-built Su-30SM Flanker fighter jets. While no such arrangement has been confirmed, New Delhi could certainly improve these Armenian aircraft markedly. But is that really a priority for Yerevan?
India has an enormous fleet of 272 Su-30MKI Flankers, most of them built by New Delhi under license. Aside from operating such a large number of these fighters for 18 years, India has also acquired and developed formidable non-Russian armaments for them.
What makes the Indian Su-30MKI different from the Flankers operated across the world is that it is a beautiful integration of various weapons, sensors, and avionics from all over the world," an ace Indian fighter pilot told local media in January.
These missiles notably include an air-launched version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, giving the Su-30MKI a substantive standoff capability, and the indigenous Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
Indian contribution to Su-30MKI avionics (developed under project Ventrivale) include DARE MC-486 and DP-30MK mission computer/display processor; DARE RC1 and RC2 radar computer; DARE DR118 RWR and high-accuracy direction-finding module; IFF-1410A IFF; HAL INCOM 1210A integrated communication suite; HAL RAM-1701 radar altimeter; and LRDE programmable signal processor. Avionics systems from various countries integrated by Ramenskoye RPKB.
Defense ties between India and Armenia have noticeably increased in recent months. Yerevan became the first foreign customer for the Indian-built Pinaka multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) when it ordered four batteries for an estimated $250 million in 2022.
Indian firm Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited (KSSL) has obtained an export order for its 155mm artillery gun platform, the firm revealed on November 9. The order, worth $155.5 million, will be executed over a three year period.
Furthermore, the two countries are concerned about growing trilateral military ties between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan. Therefore, it would make sense if they cooperate to improve Armenia's Su-30 fleet.
Furthermore, any Armenian acquisition of additional Su-30s could spur Azerbaijan to respond by acquiring modern fighters. Baku could well use an Armenian procurement, which Yerevan can ill afford, as an excuse to finally acquire the JF-17 Thunder fighter jointly developed by China and Pakistan, which it has had its eye on for years. A dozen JF-17 Block 3 fighters armed with Chinese PL-15 BVRAAM would hugely improve Azerbaijani airpower and likely negate any advantage more Flankers would provide Armenia.
Yerevan may, therefore, settle for something in the middle. It could request Indian expertise and systems to improve the four Flankers it already has so they could become somewhat useful in the event of another war with Azerbaijan, which remains a possibility.
Indian engineers could modify the aircraft to carry the Astra and even the BrahMos, potentially enabling Armenia to strike targets deep inside Azerbaijan. Baku has already had its Soviet-era Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes modernized. Those aircraft are, among other things, capable of carrying Turkish-built arms, including the long-range SOM cruise missile.
Such an arrangement could help Armenia save some face by proving that the initial Flanker acquisition was not an utter waste, thanks to the unique capabilities India can provide.
India Is An Ideal Candidate For Improving Armenia’s Su-30 Fighter Jets
New Delhi certainly could improve Armenia's Flankers markedly. But is that really a priority for Yerevan?
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