Sunday, October 4, 2009

China Deploying More S-300 Missiles

Defense News


China Deploying More S-300 Missiles

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is deploying more Russian-made S­300 (SA-10 Grumble) surface-to­air missile batteries along the coast of the Taiwan Strait, giving it the ability to project that air defense capability over Taiwan proper.

Comparable to the U.S. Patriot air defense system, the road-mobile S-300PMU2s currently are positioned to cover airbases in northwestern Taiwan, including Taoyuan International Airport and Hsinchu Airbase, home of the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing with three squadrons of Mirage 2000­5 fighters.

But four battalions of S­300PMU2 batteries have been deployed along the Fujian Province coast facing Taiwan within the past several months, said York Chen, former member of the Taiwan National Security Council.

The revelation comes at a bad time for China-Taiwan relations. Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying­jeou, has been pushing for improved ties with Beijing with the start of regular direct flights and economic agreements. There has also been talk of confidence­building measures and a peace accord.

“If the PLA wants to show good will, they should not deploy these missiles,” said Chen, now CEO of the Institute for Taiwan Defense and Strategic Studies, based here.

Russia began selling China S­300s in 1991 with two battalions of S-300PMU batteries numbering roughly 250 to 350 missiles making up eight batteries, said Andrei Chang, China military specialist with Kanwa Information Center. China ordered two batches of the improved S-300PMU1 in 1994 and 2001, which were deployed in Fujian Province.

Both the S-300 and improved S­300PMU1 have a range of 150 kilometers against aircraft. However, in 2003, China ordered 250 missiles (16 batteries) of the S­300PMU2 (SA-10B Favorit) to be fielded into 16 battalions. The new missile has a range of 200 kilometers and will be able to hit various parts of northwest Taiwan, including Hsinchu.

The first two battalions were delivered in 2007 and four batteries have been deployed along the Fujian coast, Chen said. The additional batteries are now being delivered. In total, China now has more than 1,000 S-300 missiles of various models divided into 160 launchers making up 10 battalions or 40 batteries, Chang said.

There are unconfirmed reports China has requested co-production of future sales of the S-300.

Boosting the S-300

There are concerns China’s counterstealth research-and-development program will be mated with the S-300 system. China has a special interest in shooting down the U.S. B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The image of a B-2 in the cross hairs appears on the PLAAF air defense college patch.

In 2005, Noshir Sheriarji Gowadia was arrested by U.S. officials and accused of selling B-2 secrets to China. Gowadia, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, was a Northrop Grumman aeronautical engineer from 1968 to 1986 who worked on the B-2. He specialized in the B-2’s infrared suppressing propulsion system, going so far as dubbing himself as one of the “fathers” of the B-2.

He is still awaiting trial and held without bail in Hawaii. China has been working on meter­wave, passive, over-the-horizon radar and infrared counters to detect stealth aircraft. In this vein, China procured four Kolchuga passive sensor systems from Ukraine.

The United States blocked a Chinese attempt to procure six VERA-E systems in 2004 from the Czech Republic for $55 million. However, a former U.S. military official said that VERA components and technical specifications were later transferred to China.

In 2006, during the China International Electronic Exhibition in Beijing, the Institute of China Electronic Technology displayed its new YLC-20 two-station passive surveillance radar, possibly a copy of the VERA-E.

Mated with the S-300 system, there are concerns China could make its B-2 dreams come true.