The second batch of S-400 Triumf anti-air missile systems is scheduled for delivery to China's People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) this July — five months ahead of schedule — the Diplomat reported Wednesday.
The reports remain unconfirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
China's first S-400 unit arrived last May, having previously been forced to return to Russia mid-journey after the ship carrying the equipment encountered a storm in the English Channel, causing damage to some of the S-400's auxiliary equipment, Sputnik reported. The PLARF conducted its first test of the system last December.
The S-400 is highly sought after because it's both effective and cheap, compared to US systems like the MIM-104 Patriot. With a range of us to 600 kilometers and an effective intercept altitude up to 27 kilometers, an S-400 unit can handle up to 72 missiles simultaneously flying at 36 different aerial targets.
Each unit includes a control center with radio location system, an all-altitude radar station, a portable antenna tower and up to six air defense systems, which are themselves composed of a radar station and up to 12 launcher systems. Each launcher system consists of four tubes on the back of a truck, which rotate to launch vertically, enabling them to fire in any direction quickly.
China was the first purchaser of the Russian system, and its penning of the contract set in motion sales to a host of other anxious buyers, including India, Saudi Arabia and, most recently and controversially, Turkey, which may have found that it traded access to Washington's advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Russian air defense systems.
"We have clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the S-400 will result in reassessment of Turkey's participation in the F-35 program," a US State Department official told Sputnik Monday. Washington has ceased supplying Ankara with parts for the F-35 and begun exploring new sources for the plane components Turkey previously built for the program.
While the four S-400 systems Turkey is buying from Moscow will set Ankara back $2.5 billion, the US alternative was a single Patriot system for $3.5 billion, making the Russian system almost six times cheaper. Morocco, Iraq and Belarus have also expressed interest in the S-400.
The reports come amid news that Moscow is also considering developing an export variant of its new Su-57 stealth aircraft for special sale to China. Sputnik reported Tuesday that Beijing, which already has two fifth-generation jets in the works, may acquire the advanced plane in order to learn from Sukhoi's engineers.
Last September, the US Treasury sanctioned the Chinese Military Commission's Equipment Development Department and its head, Li Shangfu, for purchasing the system, which Washington has banned by the August 2017 Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a law designed to weaken Russia, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by putting the hurt on their weapons customers.