Russiahas refused to sell S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name ‘SA-21 Growler’) Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) batteries to China.
The decision, which was reported in late May, is said to reflect concerns in Moscow that the medium-to-high altitude SAM system could be copied by Chinese engineers and sold to third countries.
The S-400 system has a range of between 120-400km (64-215nm) depending on the type of missiles it deployeds.
The advent of the S-400 would have represented a significant qualitative increase in Chinese ground-based air defence capabilities. The country is known to possess S-300PMU/PMU-1/PMU-2 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-20 Gargoyle’) SAM batteries, of which the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is thought to operate a total of 24 deployed across six regiments. These are supplemented by the indigenously-developed HQ-9 version of the S-300.
The S-300PMU has an engagement range of circa 150km (81nm), the S-300PMU-1 offers an engagement range of up to 120km, depending on the missile it employs, with the S-300PMU-2 extending this range to 195km (105nm). The HQ-9, meanwhile, is said to be capable of achieving a range of up to 200km (107nm). These missile batteries are thought to be deployed mainly in Fujian province on China’s southeast coast directly opposite Taiwan.
Any acquisition of S-400 batteries by China would have given the Taiwanese air force great cause for concern regarding the improvement in ground-to-air defence capabilities that this would have afforded to the PLAAF. Although Moscow’s decision seems to rule out any S-400 exports to China for now, there is no guarantee that Russia may not change its mind in the future and authorise such exports.