YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia is adequately protected by S-300 air-defense systems but may have even more sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missiles deployed on its territory in the near future, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said late on Tuesday.
Ohanian referred to the Russian-made S-400 Triumf systems that were developed a decade ago and have a firing range of up to 400 kilometers.
“Every year we enhance the capacity, the amount of our weaponry and military hardware,” he told journalists. “Especially the air-defense system is modernized every year, and those S-300 systems which we have are today at the ready and capable of accomplishing tasks set for them.”
“I don’t exclude that one day S-400s will be deployed in the territory of the Republic of Armenia and accomplish tasks coordinated with us,” Ohanian said after inspecting Armenian frontline troops in the northern Tavush province bordering Azerbaijan.
The minister appeared to suggest that the new systems would be first delivered to a Russian military base stationed in Armenia. The base was beefed up with S-300s in the late 1990s.
Moscow subsequently transferred the long-range missile systems to the Armenian military. The latter officially confirmed possession of such systems in late December, with Armenian state television showing footage of S-300 batteries test-firing missiles in an undisclosed location.
One such battery can simultaneously track up to 100 targets, including both aircraft and cruise missiles, and shoot down a dozen of them at a range of up to 200 kilometers. These characteristics make S-300 one of the world’s most potent anti-aircraft weapons.
Russia announced last week that it will stop production of the S-300 series and increasingly equip its armed forces with S-400s as well as the next generation of air-defense systems known as S-500.
Under a new Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed one year ago, Moscow is to help Yerevan obtain “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.” The agreement also extended the Russian troop presence in the South Caucasus country by 24 years, until 2044.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in February, Ohanian said that Armenia acquired “unprecedented” quantities of modern weaponry last year and will continue the military build-up in 2011. He refused to give any details of the arms acquisitions.