HomeTop StoriesA traditional Russian ally has snubbed Moscow's latest fighter jets for rivals...

A traditional Russian ally has snubbed Moscow’s latest fighter jets for rivals from Pakistan and Turkey

  • Azerbaijan’s largest arms supplier is Russia, but the country is likely to acquire aircraft from elsewhere.

  • The rumored deal suggests the longtime ally is pulling away from Moscow, a defense analyst said.

  • Russia’s answer to the American F-22 and F-35, the Su-57, has serious shortcomings.

The small, oil-rich country of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus has big plans to upgrade its modest fleet of fighter jets over the next decade. But instead of turning to Russia, its traditional arms supplier for decades, Baku will likely acquire modern fighters from Pakistan and Turkey.

Russia’s aversion shows that old allies like Azerbaijan are finding effective arms sellers who are not affected by the problems of Russia’s newest fighter jets.

Unconfirmed messages in Azerbaijani And Pakistani In late February, media emerged claiming that Azerbaijan had struck a deal with Pakistan to purchase an undisclosed number of JF-17C Thunder fighter jets for US$1.6 billion. Azerbaijan officially joined Turkey’s fifth-generation TF Kaan fighter program last July strongly suggested it will acquire that aircraft. De Kaan made it first flight in February.

Russia in the past brought on the market the 4.5 generation Su-30SM, Su-35 and MiG-35 fighters to Azerbaijan in the late 2010s. Azerbaijan’s president said in 2018 that his country had $5 billion spent on Russian military hardware. But now it seems unlikely that Baku will turn to Moscow for 4.5th generation aircraft. Azerbaijan is even less likely to invest in Russia’s troubled fifth-generation Su-57 or Su-75 jets.

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Russia was Azerbaijan’s largest arms supplier until recent years, says Frederico Borsari, defense expert at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

“However, things gradually changed as Russia launched a reckless war of aggression against Ukraine and began to lose influence among the Caucasus countries amid growing difficulties in Ukraine and financial constraints,” Borsari told Business Insider. “Turkey, among others, has exploited this situation from a security perspective and has begun to expand its military cooperation with Baku, including through arms sales.”

As a result, Turkish sales to Azerbaijan started to increase in 2017, while Russian arms exports stopped around 2019.

“Against this background, the rumors of the purchase of the JF-17 from Pakistan further consolidates this trend of progressive disengagement from Moscow and could also be the result of the poor performance of Russian aircraft (and the air force in general) in Ukraine, ” said Borsari.

Sebastien Roblin, a widely published military aviation journalist, says it is understandable if Azerbaijan decides to use its oil wealth to overhaul its manned fighter fleet until the Kaan starts rolling off production lines “in large quantities” around 2033.

“Given the close relations with Turkey and the ambivalent relations with Russia, the preference for the latter is understandable, especially given Russia’s own difficulties in fielding Su-57s,” Roblin told Insider.

Roblin noted that Azerbaijan faces “difficult considerations” when weighing a “politically reliable supplier” for new fighters.

“Neither Russia nor Western democracies are ideal suppliers, even though Russia has historically sold weapons to Azerbaijan,” Roblin told Insider. “Pakistan and Turkey, and through Pakistan also China, may seem more reliable partners for Baku, who are unlikely to abandon deals because of unrest over human rights issues or future potential wars with Armenia.”

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Borsari said Azerbaijan’s participation in the Kaan project is “primarily the natural consequence of a long-standing and growing security partnership” between Ankara and Baku, which stems from their close political and diplomatic ties. Turkey provided training and weapons that enabled Azerbaijan to defeat Armenia’s forces in the 2020 war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

“This seems to be a win-win solution for both countries,” Borsari said. “This choice would enable a robust long-term cooperation that ensures the sustainability of Baku’s air force in logistics, training, maintenance, etc. with a close ally, while at the same time providing Turkey with a long-term contract and customer in the defense sector. “

The CEPA analyst noted that “future problems” in the Russian military aircraft industry, the “huge disappointment surrounding the Su-57” and the “poor performance” of other Russian fighter jets in Ukraine are other possible factors pushing Baku “to choose The Turkish project.”

While Russia has promoted the Su-57 as an answer to the US F-22 and F-35, the fifth-generation fighter has some serious shortcomings. Analysts have noted that there are no fifth-generation engines present body panels are not placed together tightly enough to reduce the aircraft’s radar cross-section – an important feature of any stealth aircraft.

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An Azerbaijani acquisition of the JF-17, which the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation jointly developed, would also be significant.

A Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jet performs during the MAKS 2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 25, 2021.

A Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jet performs during the MAKS 2021 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, July 25, 2021.REUTERS/Tatjana Makejeva

Azerbaijan’s neighbor and rival, Armenia, acquired four Su-30SMs in 2020. The Su-30SM is more advanced than Azerbaijan’s MiG-29s, although they did not face each other in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.

“The JF-17 is a modernization of the MiG-21/J-7 airframe with fourth-generation technology,” Roblin said. “It does not surpass the larger, faster and heavier Su-30 twin-engine fighter in terms of raw performance and maximum radar search range.”

Nevertheless, the Block III version that Azerbaijan will purchase has significant advantages. Roblin noted that its newer systems could give it an “electronic edge” over the Su-30SM, especially the powerful and supposedly jam-resistant KLJ-7A active electronically scanned array radar. Moreover, if combined with the Chinese PL-15E air-to-air missile, it could rival the Russian equivalent.

“So while not strictly speaking an overmatch, JF-17Cs could hold their own against Armenian Su-30SMs to the extent that this would depend on the tactics and training used by both sides in the event of an air war,” said Robin. “In contrast, Azerbaijan’s Soviet-vintage MiG-29s purchased from Ukraine, while generally good aircraft, have older electronics than the Su-30SMs and much inferior radar.”

These latest rumors about Azerbaijan’s interest in the JF-17 indicate that Baku wants the former aircraft to replace the aging MiG-29s and serve as a stopgap until the Kaan is available.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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