Espreso. Global

Russian S-400: how Ukraine destroys aggressor's 'best-selling' export

25 September, 2023 Monday

Russia calls its S-400 anti-aircraft missile system one of the brightest stars in the country's armaments exports. At the same time, according to Ukraine's intelligence chief Budanov, frequent and methodical destruction of the S-400 has harmed the weapon's export potential

This is reported by Defense Express. 

The Russian Federation has built a very durable fiction about the S-400's appeal in the worldwide market. The truth is that there are just a few operators of this air defense system in the world. Except for Russia, it is only used in four countries: Belarus, China, Turkey, and India. In addition to the question of whether Belarus should be designated a separate sovereign state, the quantitative parameter of the order must be examined.

S-400 for China, Turkey and India

In September 2014, the first S-400 export contract was signed with China, including two regimental sets. According to unofficial estimates, the overall value of the transaction was more than USD 3 billion. At the same time, there was evidence that Russia had not fulfilled its obligations to send the complete volume of ordered missiles as of 2021.

The Turkish USD 2.5 billion contract for one regimental group of four divisions in 2017 was the outcome of a bigger disagreement with the US over the sale of the Patriot, as well as general tensions with Washington.

"But in the end, the sale of this air defense system to NATO was hardly a far-sighted decision by the Kremlin. After all, the first thing the Turkish air force did after receiving the S-400 was to "fly it over" with its own aircraft. And it seems that the testing of any new Turkish missiles and aircraft always involves the Russian air defense system," Defense Express writes. 

Another, maybe unrelated, aspect is that, upon receipt of the S-400, Turkey accelerated construction of national SAMs under the HISAR project, including the long-range Siper SAM (previously known as HISAR-U) with a range of up to 100 km.

Thus, the only truly massive buyer of the S-400 is India, which continues to purchase it despite being on the verge of sanctions. The contract for 5 regimental sets (a reduced two-division composition) with a price tag of USD 5.5 billion was signed in 2018.

The 'best-selling' S-400

"That is, four countries (if we count Belarus), of which objectively only two could buy something else - this is definitely not a "bestseller" on the arms market. But the Russian Federation was indeed able to create this myth by massively reporting on the "interest" in the S-400 on the part of "potential" buyers," Defense Express writes. 

Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, and Vietnam are among those on this list, with the latter "pricing" the S-400 since 2016. And virtually every year, the Russian Federation reports that Hanoi will surely buy them now, the final time in March 2023, supposedly about a plan for a group purchase of Su-57s. As a result, Vietnam and the US are currently discussing the purchase of F-16s.

Of course, Saudi Arabia has not purchased any S-400s, instead opting for the American THAAD missile defense system and more Patriots. Despite the restrictions, Russia claims that as many as 13 countries are "interested" in the S-400. At the same time, the Patriot has 18 current operators and two solid contracts. Morocco, for example, was "interested" in the S-400 but ordered the American air defense system in 2021 instead.

"Because the difference between real interest, negotiations, a firm contract, and its implementation at each stage is astronomical. But of course, after the S-400 has shown its real capabilities, problems obviously arise at the first stage. And finally, when the destruction of the S-400 is filmed from a UAV, it is extremely difficult to talk about its lack of analogies."

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