20 April 2015

Confirmed: China to Receive 4-6 Battalions of Russian S-400 Air Defense Missile System in ~2017

To paraphrase Vice President Biden, Russia’s confirmed sale of 4-6 S-400 air defense missile battalions is a big deal. The system’s radar alone is extremely powerful and long-range, and casts a long shadow over the East Asian littoral. The timing on this agreement (inked last quarter 2014, for delivery in ~2017) fits with the prominent position the S-400’s manufacturer, Almaz-Antey Concern, enjoyed at Airshow China 2014 in Zhuhai.

Wendell Minnick, “S-400 Strengthens China’s Hand in the Skies,” Defense News, 18 April 2015.

TAIPEI — A deal between Russia and China for procurement of the new S-400 air defense system will serve as a force multiplier for Beijing in its quest to dominate the skies along its borders, experts said.

The 400-kilometer-range system will, for the first time, allow China to strike any aerial target on the island of Taiwan, in addition to reaching air targets as far as New Delhi, Calcutta, Hanoi and Seoul. The Yellow Sea and China’s new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea will also be protected. The system will permit China, if need be, to strike any air target within North Korea. 

The S-400 will also allow China to extend, but not dominate, the air defense space closer to the disputed Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, said Vasiliy Kashin, a China defense specialist at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Moscow. …

The S-400 will challenge Taiwan’s ability to conduct air defense operations within its own ADIZ, which covers the Taiwan Strait. …

Rosoboronexport CEO Anatoly Isaikin announced the sale on April 13. He told news media outlets that the S-400 was in demand in the international market and that China would be the first export customer. No specifics were revealed, but the actual contract was most likely signed in the last quarter of 2014, Kashin said. He said the deal will include four to six battalions at about US $3 billion.

The S-400 is capable of intercepting missiles and air breathing targets, he said. …

China would no doubt attempt to reverse engineer the S-400, as it has done with previous sales of the S-300, but reverse engineering is time consuming, Kashin said, and Russia is now working on the next-generation S-500. The S-500 is expected to enter serial production in 2017; roughly, the same time China receives its first S-400 delivery, Kashin said.

The last-quarter 2014 Sino-Russian contract signing fits with prominent position of S-400 manufacturer Almaz-Antey Concern at the 2014 Zhuhai Airshow.

Charles Forrester, “Airshow China 2014: Almaz-Antey Outlines Services Export Success,” IHS Jane’s Defence Industry, 12 November 2014.

Air defence systems manufacturer Almaz-Antey is looking to increase the volume of its services business to international customers by USD500 million.

Speaking to Russian press agency ITAR-TASS on 12 November at Airshow China 2014 in Zhuhai, Almaz-Antey Deputy Director-General Vyacheslav Dzirkaln said “In 2007, when we got the right to foreign economic activities, the volume of services reached USD2 million, [and] it increased to USD46 million in 2013. It will be within USD60 million [in 2014] despite the sanctions against the concern…. Now we’re carrying out 26 long-term contracts for nine countries at the total amount of over USD300 million” …