2008: China has upgraded its anti-aircraft
missiles along its southern coast (facing Taiwan) from S-300PMU1 and S-300PMU2
systems to the S-300PMU3. This model has been renamed the S400 because of the
large number of improvements.
S-300/400 system is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Patriot system, and was
originally known as the SA-10 to NATO, when the system first appeared in the
early 1980s. There have been many upgrades since. The missiles weigh 1.8 tons
each and are 26 feet long and about 20 inches in diameter. The missiles have a
range of some 200 kilometers (400 kilometers for the S-400) and can hit targets
as high as 100,000 feet. The missile has a 320 pound warhead. The target
acquisition radar has a range of 700 kilometers. The Taiwan Straits are only
180 kilometers wide.
has over five times the range of the U.S. Patriot, weighs twice as much and
claims the ability to detect stealthy aircraft. The S-400 also has an
anti-missile capability, which is limited to shorter range (3,500 kilometers)
ballistic missiles. That would mean a warhead coming in at about 5,000 meters a
second (the longer the range of a ballistic missile, the higher its re-entry
system actually has two missiles, one of them being a smaller, shorter range
(120 kilometers) one. The S-300/400 has no combat experience, but U.S.
intelligence believes that the tests these systems have undergone indicate it
is a capable air defense weapon. Just how capable won't be known until it
actually gets used in combat.
S-400 battalion (four launchers and a radar) was installed outside Moscow last
Summer. Russia plans to buy up to 200 launchers (each with four missiles) by
2015, and phase out the older S-300 and S-200 systems. China, a major user of
the S-300, is a major export customer for the new system. South Korea is
developing their own version of the S-400, via s special deal with Russia.