Tag Archives: S-400

The Next China Deal

IA Regnum military observer Leonid Nersisyan recently took a stab at preparing Russian public opinion for the eventual sale of S-400 SAMs and Su-35S fighters to China.  A major arms deal with China should be expected, especially given Moscow’s turn further east in the wake of Western sanctions.

Nersisyan aims to refute usual complaints about exporting Russia’s most advanced weaponry to China, i.e. that Beijing will quickly copy and sell it more cheaply.  He dials back to the early 1990s.

The sale of S-300 SAMs began in 1993, amounting to something between 24 and 40 battalions of three variants.  Along the way, China developed a copy, the HQ-9, similar but less capable than the original in many performance parameters.  If it had been a really good knock off, Nersisyan argues, the HQ-9 would be found in many of the world’s armies, but it isn’t.

China's S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

China’s S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

The S-300 has grown old, and the money earned from China went into S-400 development and saved Almaz-Antey from bankruptcy at a time of little, if any, Russian military procurement.  Nersisyan concludes that:

“. . . the deal was successful — the system was copied (with deficiencies) only two decades after the first deliveries, when it had already grown old, and Russia had more modern analogues.”

Nersisyan points also to the Su-27 sale.  First Russia sold Beijing 24, then 200 kits for assembly in China.  But the Chinese stopped the transfer at 100, and began producing a copy, the J-11B.  However, its engine proved unreliable in comparison with Russia’s AL-31F, which the Chinese opted to buy for their domestic fighters.  Similarly, China bought nearly 100 Su-30 variants beginning in 2000 before producing a copy, the J-16, which also lacks a reliable engine. China’s difficulty, according to various reports, is manufacturing turbine blades and plates.

Neither the J-11B nor the J-16 is being produced in volume, and Russian aircraft remain the foundation of Chinese fighter aviation.

So, concludes Nersisyan, it will take China 20 years to copy the more complex S-400, while Russia is deploying the S-500.  Copying the generation 4++ Su-35S will be complicated by its more advanced thrust-vectored AL-41F1S engine, and Russia will be fielding the PAK FA / T-50 in the meantime.

Nersisyan writes that becoming a real competitor in the global arms market requires original RDT&E, not copying.  He sums up in three maxims:

  • Modern technologies don’t lend themselves to quick copying.
  • Copiers always lag behind.
  • The copy is often worse than the original.

What do others say about the threat of Chinese copying?

CAST’s Vasiliy Kashin agrees that fears are exaggerated because people don’t understand the obstacles to successful copying or that China’s military modernization is directed against the U.S. (something that, he adds, benefits Moscow).  He also blames much of the copying of Russian fighters on Ukrainian technical cooperation with China.

Vasiliy Sychev has written that S-400 and Su-35S sales to China will be straight sales without any technical or production licenses.  Moscow typically wants to sell more, and Beijing buy less, but the sides have worked toward the middle.  A new deal (or deals) will be for 2-4 SAM battalions and 24 fighters ($1.5 billion, or $60 million per).

Nor does Viktor Murakhovskiy see anything critical because Russian capabilities will be ahead of what China gets.

More Sinophobic, Aleksandr Khramchikhin says there’s an active and effective pro-China lobby in Moscow’s power ministries and OPK, and he believes Russia needs to understand it faces a grave threat from China.

The Next S-400 “Regimental Set”

On 14 February, Krasnaya zvezda covered the arrival of a new Pantsir-S battalion in VVKO’s 4th Air Defense Brigade north and west of Moscow.

In a bit of sidebar, the brigade’s commander indicated the next S-400 “regimental set” (sixth overall) will be deployed in his formation. Recall at the end of 2013, Russian media reported two “sets” (six and seven) were delivered to the military.

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

The new two-battery unit of six Pantsir-S vehicles came from Ashuluk, following its first live fire exercises.  Before this, the battalion was in Gatchina, near St. Petersburg, for initial training.

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

According to its commander, Colonel Valeriy Varentsov, the 4th Brigade has four SAM regiments deployed in Yaroslavl, Tver, Kaluga, and Moscow regions.  It received its first Pantsir-S battalion a year ago, and it is part of the S-400-equipped SAM regiment at Dmitrov.

Colonel Varentsov notes the Pantsirs remain under factory warranty, so Tula-based developer KBP maintains them.  His troops will take that responsibility at some future time.

Varentsov expects another two-battalion “regimental set” of S-400 SAMs, which just performed live firings at Kapustin Yar, to arrive in his brigade soon.

One might guess the new S-400s will deploy with existing regiments northwest of Moscow near Klin or Solnechnogorsk, or southwest near Naro-Fominsk.

Varentsov said, for the first time, his brigade is getting S-400s on the MZRT-7930 8-wheel chassis from the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Factory, instead of the previous tractor / trailer configuration.  Its prime mover was apparently built by the Bryansk Automobile Factory.

The brigade expects S-500 deliveries in 2015, and a fully new inventory of armaments by 2020.  Varentsov hinted he’d like Baykal-1M command post vehicles.

Two More S-400 “Regimental Sets”

S-400 Launch Position (photo: RIA Novosti /  Mikhail Mokrushin)

S-400 Launch Position (photo: RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Almaz-Antey announced delivery of two S-400 “regimental sets” to the Defense Ministry at Kapustin Yar on 25 December.  That makes six and seven to date.

No official word on their eventual place of deployment, but Zvenigorod, outside Moscow, was first mentioned back in 2011, and again this fall.  No one has hinted at a location for number seven.

The producer says it fulfilled its contract for serial production in 2013, and is fully meeting its obligation to manufacture “two-three regimental sets” per year.

S-400 Test Firing (photo: Almaz-Antey)

S-400 Test Firing (photo: Almaz-Antey)

The company’s press-release said the launchers were vibration-tested during a march over various road and terrain conditions at different speeds.  Then Almaz-Antey specialists and combat crews transferred them from traveling mode and conducted test launches against “low-flying, high-speed and ballistic targets.”

In late November, President Putin said two S-400 regiments were fielded this year when they were still, apparently, at KY.  He promised three in 2014.

Perhaps these “regimental sets” make a total of 14 S-400 battalions against a long-ago stated goal of 56 battalions under the current state armaments program.

Putin Stresses Strategic Systems

Originally intended for another purpose, so it’s a tad dated.  Perhaps still useful to some . . .

Putin Talks Air Forces

Putin Talks Air Forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted six meetings on key arms programs from 27-29 November in Sochi.  He focused on strategic systems in his public remarks before the sessions.

Looking first at the RVSN, Putin called development of the “main component of the strategic nuclear forces” a priority.  He said two RVSN regiments received new mobile missile systems – 18 RS-24 Yars (SS-29) ICBMs — this year.  Putin added that the RVSN will field 22 new ICBMs – likely also RS-24 — in 2014.

Putin said the RVSN need to overcome “any missile defense system.”  Makeyev State Missile Center general designer Vladimir Degtyar responded by describing development of a missile with “increased throw weight” and better survivability, presumably a new liquid-fueled heavy missile.

The Russian president said it is “not necessary to say much about how important the naval part of the triad of strategic nuclear deterrence is for us.”  New Borey-class SSBNs Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh need to enter service next year as part of a contingent of eight new SSBNs by 2020, he said.  Not mentioning the failed launch of a Bulava SLBM in September, Putin tersely commented, “The armament [Bulava] should arrive in step with its launchers, these submarines.”

Putin called for “active” work on the new PAK DA strategic bomber, and modernization of existing Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers.  OAK chairman Mikhail Pogosyan replied that the Defense Ministry has given the corporation the technical task for PAK DA, and the company is preparing for R&D starting next year.  He said OAK is almost ready to submit modernized Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers for state testing.

Turning to aerospace defense, Putin said two ‘regimental sets’ of S-400 SAMs were fielded this year, and three should reach the forces in 2014.  Almaz-Antey general designer Pavel Sozinov told the Russian president that the S-500 SAM system is approaching the “finish line” with testing planned in 2014-15, and the new medium-range S-350E Vityaz should reach units in 2015-16.  The first production lines in new Almaz-Antey plants in Nizhny Novgorod and Kirov will begin operating in 2015, according to Sozinov.

Putin addressed well-known problems in Russia’s space sector, noting that failures have brought significant material losses.  Some military space projects are drifting despite stable financing, he added.  He noted that five military satellites have been placed in orbit, and five more will be in 2013.  Six satellites will be orbited next year, Putin said.

Concluding the meetings, Putin reminded assembled military and defense industry leaders that Russia’s defense budget has increased four-fold over ten years.  He said this money was allocated to guarantee the country’s defense capability for the long-term future, and established tasks must be completed on schedule.  He plans to hold another rearmament review in six months.

Third S-400 Regiment for Moscow Oblast

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

The VVKO’s spokesman told RIA Novosti this week that the next — the sixth — S-400 SAM regiment (or “regimental set” of two launch battalions) will be deployed in Moscow Oblast before the end of 2013.

S-400s are already located east and north of Moscow at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, respectively.  Dubrovki was reported as Dmitrov (actually further north) by Russian media in the past.

Zvenigorod to the west was first mentioned as a deployment location in 2011.  It was supposed to be the third S-400 location before the end of that year.

Russian reportedly operates five S-400 regiments at the present time — Elektrostal and Dubrovki, and one each in the Baltic Fleet (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad), Nakhodka in the Far East, and the Southern MD.

Find a better version of the map above here.

What’s It Cost?

S-400

S-400

A reader recently asked:

What’s the cost of one division of the S-400 for Russia and for foreign customers?

Let’s call it a battalion (дивизион).  We’ll start with exports (for which there is actually data).  And we proceed from what was paid for the S-300.

Russia’s planned sale of the S-300PMU1 to Iran reportedly involved the transfer of five “battalion sets” for $800 million.  Some sources said as much as $1-1.2 billion.   

Let’s guess the “battalion set” has three firing batteries, with two launchers per, for a total of 30 TELs, 120+ missiles, and all associated radars, fire control systems, and vehicles.

If $800 million is accurate, the price for one battalion was $160 million.  The price for one S-400 system, four missiles on a TEL, was roughly $27 million.

This isn’t unlike what the Chinese paid for the S-300 in the 1990s and 2000s.  According to Sinodefence.com, they bought battalions for between $25 and $60 million at different times under different contracts.

That done, we make the leap from the S-300 price to the S-400 price.

A couple years ago, Vedomosti drew the scarcely precise conclusion that the price of the S-400 will double the S-300′s price (and the S-500 double the S-400′s). 

So perhaps a “battalion set” or a battalion of the S-400 will go for $320 million.  That would be one full-up launch vehicle for $40-50 million.

The only other shred of information is the widely-reported Financial Times story saying, if the Russians added the S-400 to a $2 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the price of the sale would climb to $7 billion.  But lots of Russian reports say Moscow won’t be selling the S-400 abroad soon.  The military obviously hopes that’s true, so it can get first.

But not every customer is Iranian, not every one will have to pay a premium price, and not every customer is foreign.

Which brings the trickier question of what Russia’s Defense Ministry has to pay.  It’s simply impossible to guess.

Certainly a lot less than buyers abroad.  The military’s bought some S-400 systems so there is a going price.  OAO Concern PVO Almaz-Antey’s costs are a big question as is the level of profit the government is willing to tolerate.  

The government owns Almaz-Antey, so one part of government is selling to another.  It’s a prime example of angst over GOZ “price formation” in recent years.  There was a similar big-ticket dustup over submarine prices with Sevmash.  It’s something of a Mexican standoff.  The buyer doesn’t have other supplier alternatives.  And the seller may not be allowed to sell elsewhere. 

The Defense Ministry, the government don’t want to pay a lot and have the power to refuse and yet still receive goods.  The question is how many.  That’s ECON 101, friends.

If those buyers set their price below equilibrium, Almaz-Antey will provide a lower than desired quantity more slowly than the buyers want.   And Almaz might have other buyers as an option, an advantage Sevmash lacks.  So “price formation” for the S-400 is all about agreement on Almaz’s costs and an acceptable level of profit.  That agreement is apparently not smoothly worked out yet.

Those Air Defense Missile Factories

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

OK, a lot gets under the radar . . . hadn’t noticed interesting reports since August by Izvestiya’s Aleksey Mikhaylov.

Sue me.

The latest is Mikhaylov’s informative update on two Almaz-Antey factories planned to crank out missiles for the S-400 Triumf and S-500 Prometey.

His OPK source says:

  • By 2014, large factories in Kirov and Nizhniy Novgorod are supposed to manufacture hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missiles for the S-400 and S-500.
  • The missiles will have inert, kinetic kill warheads, and supposedly be capable of intercepting ballistic targets at 7 km/s.
  • The Kirov factory will cost 41.6 billion rubles, the one in Nizhniy 39.5 (81.1  together).  Almaz will get a credit of 25 billion from VEB; the Defense Ministry will invest 35 billion.  One wonders where the balance comes from, and what the terms of this three-way partnership are.

Almaz greatly needs a new production base to field missiles for its SAM launchers.  It was planned in 2008, but the financial crisis prevented it.  The military doesn’t want to repeat the S-400 experience.  It remains armed with older, shorter-range 48N6 and 9M96 missiles.  Since 2007 only seven battalions (3 and 1/2 “regimental sets”) of the S-400 (out of 56 planned) have been fielded.

New missile production should coincide with serial production of the S-500 system (not later than 2014).  It remains under development.  However, Mikhaylov reports rumored sightings of  Prometey prototypes at this or that test range.

Over time, various officers and officials have claimed new, long-range missiles for the S-400 would be fielded in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

By way of conclusion, Mikhaylov turns to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Konovalov to comment:

“The country’s leadership looks at the defense sector like a Coke machine.  Put money in and get a bottle.  Nothing is that simple with the domestic OPK, and investing a lot of money doesn’t guarantee getting production precisely on time.  And discussion about the S-500 is questionable, it’s possible it doesn’t even exist in drawings.”