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The geopolitical landscape of the Caucasus region is once again under the spotlight as Azerbaijan’s bid to acquire fighter jets from Pakistan raises concerns about stability and peace in the region. The potential acquisition of JF-17 Thunder Generation 4.5 jets by Azerbaijan, combined with Armenia’s strategic positioning near the West and India, underscores the delicate balance of power in this volatile region.

Reports suggest that Azerbaijan is considering a significant purchase of JF-17 Thunder jets from Pakistan, with estimates ranging from 18 to 40 aircraft in a deal worth up to $1.5 billion. If realized, this deal would mark one of the largest export orders for the JF-17 fighter jets, surpassing Myanmar’s previous order of 16 jets from China. The move signifies Azerbaijan’s ambition to modernize its air force and enhance its military capabilities, particularly in light of recent conflicts in the Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan’s interest in acquiring new fighter jets reflects its desire to update its aging fleet of Russian aircraft and adapt to evolving security challenges in the region. The deployment of Turkish and Israeli drones in recent conflicts in Karabakh has highlighted the importance of air power, prompting Azerbaijan to seek advanced aircraft capable of countering potential threats from traditional adversaries.

Meanwhile, Armenia, following its defeat in the 2020 Karabakh conflict, has turned to India for military support and weapons procurement. The Armenian Air Force, equipped with Russian Su-30SM and Su-25 aircraft, is exploring options to enhance its firepower by incorporating India-made Astra Mk1 BVRAAMs and BrahMos-A ALCMs into its fleet. However, Armenia’s fleet size remains limited, and the country may need to consider acquiring additional fighter jets to effectively counter Azerbaijan’s military capabilities.

Armenia may consider acquiring more Su-30SM fighters or exploring lower-cost options to counter Azerbaijan’s JF-17 acquisition. In recent times, India has stepped up its military support to Armenia, supplying ATAGS 155×52 Howitzers, ATGMs, Swati Weapons Locating Radars (WLRs), and even the Akash air defense system.

India has not yet offered its LCA-Tejas Mk1A fighter jets, which could potentially counter Baku’s JF-17 acquisition due to their similar capabilities. However, it remains unclear if India can quickly supply these jets to Armenia.

Several factors complicate this potential deal. The Indian Air Force already has significant orders for Tejas jets, with 83 confirmed and 97 in the pipeline. Additionally, the manufacturer of the Tejas engine, GE, is facing production constraints and will only be able to supply 20 engines per year starting in 2026. This limited engine availability leaves little room for immediate exports.

France has also recently offered to supply Armenia with assault rifles, short-range Mistral missiles, and potentially even Rafale fighter jets. However, Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafales, has a backlog of 180 orders, and it’s uncertain if Armenia could wait the estimated four years for delivery.

Both India and France are collaborating to strengthen Armenia’s defense capabilities. It will be interesting to see if they can provide Armenia with a viable counter to Baku’s latest move, considering the limitations and uncertainties surrounding both fighter jet options.

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