The People’s Liberation Army Daily ran a photo feature last week that sheds light on the force’s deployment and trial of the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system bought from Russia.
Photographs showed artillerymen assigned to a surface-to-air missile brigade under the PLA’s Northern Theater Command preparing the installation of S-300 missiles, designed to counter aircraft and cruise missiles, during a drill in northern China last month.
Other troops are seen operating a sling cart to lift and load the S-300 missiles and then firing them at mock aerial targets.
The report noted that the brigade’s primary duty was to fend off incoming missiles threatening the Chinese capital and its neighboring municipality of Tianjin.
The S-300 was first designed by the Soviet Union to defend large industrial and administrative facilities and military bases against enemy strike aircraft. It is is regarded as one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems operational anywhere in the world. China was the first non-Russian buyer of S-300 missiles.
The PLA has also built its own versions of S-300V long-range missiles, coded HQ-18, on top of the four versions of the S-300 in service, the PMU, PMU1 and PMU2 and the maritime S-300FM Rif. Based on the S-300PMU1, the Rif enables the PLA Navy’s two Type 51C air-defense destroyers to counter incoming short-range ballistic missiles.
Five S-300 battalions are deployed and in active duty around Beijing and Tianjin. Six further battalions in 15 divisions are reportedly based in southeastern Fujian province overlooking the Taiwan Strait, primarily targeting Taipei and other high-profile targets in northern Taiwan.
Taiwan-based military observer Wendell Minnick told Deutsche Welle that Taiwan as yet does not have batteries capable of countering S-300 and S-400 missiles launched across the strait in the event of a pre-emptive strike by the PLA.
The remaining S-300 missiles in China are reportedly installed to guard major cities, power plants and military installations in and around major cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Dalian and Qingdao.
China has also purchased six S-400 missile defense systems for US$3 billion, which are expected to be delivered by the end of the year.