First S-400 Battalion on Duty in 2007 (photo: Leonid Yakutin)
On 9 February, RIA Novosti quoted Air Forces CINC Aleksandr Zelin:
“All that has been planned and must be supplied in the coming years, has been agreed with Almaz-Antey, will be fulfilled on time. The S-400 antiaircraft missile system is fully entering the Air Forces’ weapons inventory. The shift in the schedule for its supply has some organizational but mainly a technical character.”
Reminding the press that he’s member of the Almaz-Antey board of directors, Zelin said, “At the last session, we talked over all issues connected with planned supplies of the S-400 to the Air Forces.”
It sounds like Zelin is admitting the S-400 has been delayed, and the reasons are technical in nature. Maybe there’s been some problem in the S-400’s operations or capabilities.
So where does the S-400 stand? Two battalions were fielded at Elektrostal near Moscow in 2007 and 2008, and Air Forces spokesmen have said repeatedly that 5 additional battalions will be delivered this year. The State Armaments Program, 2007-2015, called for 18 battalions by 2015. But, as Mikhail Rastopshin has said, 18 battalions don’t cover Russia’s main administrative and industrial centers or support its strategic nuclear forces.
In the midst of his late November criticism of Russian defense industry’s inability to provide the VVS with the UAVs it needs, Zelin also said Russian needs a second factory to produce the S-400 Triumf and other future air defense systems. According to him, Almaz-Antey cannot fully satisfy the country’s demand for S-400 systems. Not sounding too sure, he added that, “In 2010, we need to receive another five battalions, but everything depends on the industry and financing.”
Commenting on the S-400 tests at Ashuluk, Zelin said he was satisfied with the results, but the tactical-technical characteristics in the system are “still less than we wanted.” He may be referring to lingering, well-known problems with the S-400’s long-range missiles.
VVS CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin
Zelin went on to criticize the pace of development of the next generation S-500:
“Development of this system doesn’t satisfy me. We would like for the existing potential in the Almaz-Antey concern to be doubled or even tripled.”
He said he planned to raise the S-500 development issue at the December board meeting.
More recently, on 28 January, Rosoboroneksport General Director Isaykin indicated that, although he has foreign orders for the S-400, Russia’s requirements would be met first.
On 17 September, Almaz General Director Ashurbeyli told ITAR-TASS that the S-500 would need 4-5 years to complete. On possible S-400 export orders, he said he could only say two countries had signed large agreements for more than 10 battalions, but contracts remained to be finalized. But Zelin made another statement this day that the system would go first to Russia’s armed forces.
So to recap. The S-400 supply schedule has shifted for technical reasons. The VVS hasn’t gotten a battalion since 2008. Zelin admits he’s not fully happy with the S-400’s capabilities. He says everything depends on the manufacturer, with whom he’s unhappy. Meanwhile, foreign customers are already lined up for the S-400 that Russia can’t get and Almaz-Antey is marching off on the new S-500.