Chinese missile force puts new Russian S-400 air defence system to the test

  • PLA Rocket Force reportedly shot down a ‘simulated ballistic target’ almost 250km (155 miles) away and moving at 3km (1.9 miles) per second
  • It was the first time China has tested the system bought under a US$3 billion contract
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 4:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 4:54am

China has successfully tested an advanced air defence system imported from Russia, as the two militaries continue to step up cooperation.

Russian media reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 Triumf air defence system last month, successfully shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” almost 250km (155 miles) away and moving at the supersonic speed of 3km (1.9 miles) per second.

It was the first time the PLA’s missile force had tested the system since it received the last shipments of the weaponry from Russia in July under a US$3 billion contract signed in 2015.

China – which has been equipped with Russia’s S-300 system for more than a decade – is the first country to import the next-generation S-400 air defence missile system.

Analysts said Russia appeared to have publicised the test last week to highlight closer military ties between Moscow and Beijing and to promote its S-400 system.

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the reports showed that Moscow wanted to underscore the relationship at a time when the United States was at loggerheads with both Russia and China.

“Despite pressure from the US, the Russian military will increase its cooperation with the PLA in areas such as missiles, shipbuilding and other sectors,” he said.

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China and Russia have significantly boosted their military ties in the past decade as both countries compete with the US for regional and global influence.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military expert with a focus on the PLA, said the test was an “advertisement” by the Russian military to promote its S-400 system.

“But it’s also clear that the PLA’s Rocket Force is proficient in using the S-400 air defence system because they are already familiar with its predecessor, the S-300, which China has used since the ’90s,” Song said.

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He added that it was important to differentiate between “simulated ballistic target” and real hypersonic missiles.

“Hypersonic weapons boast features such as manoeuvrability – gliding, for example – and they are almost impossible to intercept because they are travelling at such high speed,” Song said.

India also signed a US$5 billion deal with Russia to purchase five S-400 systems when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited New Delhi in October.

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Moscow has claimed the S-400 is a cutting-edge air defence system that can detect and shoot down targets including ballistic missiles, enemy jets and drones up to 600km (373 miles) away, at altitudes of between 10 metres and 27km (33 feet and 17 miles).

It says the system can simultaneously shell 36 targets moving at speeds of up to 4,800 metres per second (16,000 feet per second) with 72 ground-to-air missiles.