Kazakhstan has acquired four state-of-the-art fighter jets from Russia, part of a deal that could include up to 36 of the aircraft by 2020 in what Kazakhstan media called "one of the biggest deals on the defense market in the last decade."
The Su-30SM fighters were handed over at a ceremony April 17 at the Taldykorgan air force base. "This shows the increasing military power of the Kazakhstan armed forces... The Su-30SM will substantially improve the defense of the air borders of the republic of Kazakhstan," said the commander of Kazakhstan's air forces, General-Major Nurlan Ormanbetov.
The Su-30SM is a so-called Generation 4++ fighter, and thus far has only been ordered by the Russian air force. (The only 5th-generation fighter in operation is the Lockheed Martin F-22.)
Russian newspaper Vedemosti reported that the deal (which includes training on the new aircraft for pilots and mechanics) was worth 5 billion rubles (about $90 million at the current exchange rate). That was "close to the price for the Russian air force" thanks to the favorable pricing for Russia's allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. If Kazakhstan buys all 36 aircraft, the deal would total $2 billion, Vedemosti reported.
The deal is remarkable in part because Kazakhstan's recent military aircraft purchases have been from European companies. "This is the first contract for delivery of modern Russian fighters not only to CSTO members, but to all CIS countries," Vedemosti wrote, citing Konstantin Makienko of the Moscow defense think tank Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST). "Deliveries of military aircraft are usually evidence of close ties between the supplier and buyer, and Kazakhstan, while a close military ally of Russia, in recent years has not bought large amounts of Russian weaponry, at the same time buying transport aircraft and helicopters (which are assembled in Kazakhstan) from the European company Airbus Military."
Interestingly, the CAST blog notes that by the serial numbers of Kazakhstan's new jets, they appear to have been taken from those ordered by Russia, at a time when many are calling for Russia to scale back its defense spending.