Russia may have just finished shipping its ace S-400 Triumf self-propelled anti-aircraft systems to China, after three Russian vessels carrying what were believed to be S-400 regimental core components including a control station, radars, fuel, launch-silo parts and other auxiliary equipment sailed into an unspecified Chinese port last month, according to Russian news agency TASS.
A third and final ship recently arrived in China as well, an unnamed military diplomatic source told TASS.
Jane’s Defense Weekly also reported that Russian specialists would begin the handover of the set at the end of this month, with the whole procedure expected to take about two months.
But the source didn’t reveal if there would be more S-400 systems to be delivered to China as part of an initial contract signed in 2014 for six batteries. On paper, the cost is US$400 million per fire unit.
A team of engineers and operators from the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force have also wrapped up their intensive training in Russia, where they have become attuned to the mechanism and operation of this highly complicated weapon system.
Previously, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu told reporters that his ministry had been in close contact with the Chinese for two major programs concerning the S-400 missiles and a new anti-ship missile.
The formidable S-400 system can fire four missiles simultaneously at multiple aircraft and at varying altitudes over a maximum range of 400 kilometers, with a maximum target speed of a whopping 17,000km/h, or Mach 14, while resisting powerful electronic jamming. Its target detection distance is 600km.
The proliferation of Russian air offensive systems has not only Taipei worried.
Other than bringing the entire island of Taiwan well within range when launched from the coast of the Taiwan-facing province of Fujian over a strait of 130km at its narrowest, missiles from the S-400 system launched from the northern province of Shandong could also shoot down planes near the Diaoyu Islands – an atoll in the East China Sea that is at the center of a bitter territorial row between Beijing and Tokyo, which calls them the Senkaku Islands – provided that China is able to acquire the very-long-range 40N6 missiles of the system from Russia.
Against Taiwan, only the 40N6 missile can bring all of the island’s airspace in range, but deploying it along the coast of Fujian at sea level would prevent it from locating low-level aircraft at long range because of the Earth’s curvature, according to a commentary in The Diplomat.