MiG-29 Fighter Jets Practice ‘Hunting In Pairs’, Forced Landings In Mountainous Region; Yerevan Concerned, Baku Unhappy

Russian MiG-29 fighter jets from Erebuni Air Base in Armenia’s Southern Military District recently conducted a training exercise, intercepting fictitious enemy aerial targets, Tass reported. 

Military pilots flew in pairs in the mountains, doing simple and complex aerobatic maneuvers in adverse weather conditions. According to the press office of the Southern Military District, the pilots also practiced forced landing. During the training, intercepted targets acted as enemy aircraft, it specified.

The pilots of MiG-29 fighters of the Russian Air Base in Armenia undertook over 1,200 training and combat training flights in 2021, using the aircraft’s weapons in tactical drills and combat alert missions. 

Mikoyan MiG-29K - Wikipedia
MiG-29K – Wikipedia

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia and the Republic of Armenia reached an agreement on August 21, 1992, allowing the Russian forces to be stationed on Armenian soil. The Russian 102nd military post was established in Armenia on September 1, 1994, with forces stationed in Gyumri and Erebuni.

For its military post in Armenia, Russia does not make any payment. The legal existence of the base is established on the interstate agreement between Russia and Armenia, which can be further extended.

Around 5,000 personnel are currently deployed to the Russian 102nd military facility in Armenia. The base in discussion is part of the Southern Military District of Russia. Moreover, it is the only military post in the South Caucasus.

The base’s mission is to maintain the security of the borders as well as Russia’s regional interests. The aviation task force of the military base is based at the Erebuni airfield near Yerevan.

The 426th aviation group has been stationed there since 1995, and the 520th aviation commandant’s office was integrated into it in November 1998. Russian MiG-29 multirole jets were redeployed to the Air Base during the time.

The 3624th Air Base was established in July 2001 to bring together the aviation units stationed at the Erebuni airfield. The airbase houses MiG-29 and upgraded MiG-29S multirole fighters, MiG-29UB combat training aircraft, SU-30SM multirole fighters, Mi-8MT transport helicopters, and Mi-24P gunships.

Russian Troops On Armenian Soil 

In early 2021, Armenia stated that it wants to increase the number of Russian troops on its soil in order to bolster Moscow’s role as a security guarantor for the country.

In November 2020, Russia had brokered a peace agreement between Armenia and its arch-rival Azerbaijan, ending six weeks of combat over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area.

Russia MiG-29
File Image: Russia MiG-29

Armenia lost swaths of territory to Azerbaijan in the contested region and neighboring areas it had held since a war in the 1990s, as well as enabling Russian peacekeepers to be deployed in the area, as part of the agreement.

Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is led by Russia and comprises Belarus as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri, is home to a Russian military base with 3,000 troops. Russian border guards also are stationed along Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran. 

Since Armenia’s independence with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two countries have been at odds. The Kremlin has not yet approved the border plan, but Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, indicated that talks with Yerevan would continue. Armenia has repeatedly requested Russian military assistance.

Following last year’s battle over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Russia reportedly started using two new sites in Armenia’s south near the Azerbaijani border as an “additional security guarantee”.

Baku has openly expressed its dissatisfaction with Moscow’s post-war order. A few months back, Azerbaijani media cited a Russian government tender that used the term “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”.

Baku, which views itself as the true owner of the territory, despises the name. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan then lodged a formal complaint with Moscow.

Azerbaijanis have also expressed their displeasure over military drills in Karabakh. One of the training courses was termed as “basic training” for young Armenian residents of Karabakh. Then, there was a course called “basic training” for Russian soldiers to shield themselves against drones, which sparked a controversy.  

Engineers and sapper units are being transferred to Nagorno-Karabakh – Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

One of the important dimensions is Azerbaijan’s desire for a direct authority over the Lachin corridor, which links Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as recognition of its sovereignty over the region.

Though Azerbaijani experts warn that the squabbles could worsen before the critical date of 2025 when the Russian peacekeeping force’s term is slated to complete and Baku will have the power to veto its extension.