On 07 April 2020, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that an official Azerbaijani government and military delegation visited United Aircraft Corporation’s (UAC) facilities in Russia.
The Azerbaijani MoD stated, “our country expressed interest in purchasing the most advanced Russian-made combat aircraft.” The MoD outlined that the Azerbaijani delegation visited UAC’s production plants for the Su-35 and MiG-35, and that Azerbaijan Air and Air Defence Force pilots test-flew the MiG-35.
Notes & Comments:
Though Azerbaijan had reportedly expressed interest in the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC)/Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) JF-17 Thunder, it seems that the country is still open to new Russian combat aircraft. Given that Azerbaijan’s fighter fleet is entirely comprised of Russian aircraft, this news is not surprising – the existing familiarity with Russian suppliers and, potentially, Russia’s willingness to help with financing and other support will continue having an influence.
However, Baku is starting to diversify. In February 2020, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Defence, Zakir Hasanov, announced that the country will acquire the Leonardo M-346 for its training needs. Negotiations are now underway, though neither side has released information regarding numbers, pricing or delivery dates.
In regards to the JF-17, there is little PAC could have done if Azerbaijan was not convinced of the fighter’s performance or capabilities. The Block-III might have been of interest, but since it is in the prototype stage, Baku would not have a complete understanding of the aircraft until it can test-fly a unit.
On the other hand, AVIC can draw on more options to secure a deal in Azerbaijan. AVIC can, for example, market the J-10CE. Its domestic variant, the J-10C, is in frontline service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It is among a few serving non-Western fighters equipped with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Moreover, AVIC may be able to draw on its own financing/credit faculties so as to secure a deal with Azerbaijan. Thus, UAC may still face genuine competition.