Dec 8, 2014

S-400 Looms Large Over Taiwan

Taiwan’s F-16s face a growing threat from China’s arsenal of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). The latest and gravest is the Russian sale of 400-kilometer-range S-400 Triumf road-mobile SAM systems to China.
The Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation has downplayed recent Russian-language media reports of an agreement and contract, but “as I understand it, it is basically true,” said Vasiliy Kashin, a China military specialist at Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
Russian media reports indicate China and Russia have signed a US $3 billion contract to procure an initial six S-400 battalions. The missile is an upgraded variant of the S-300, now fielded by China in battalions based near major cities and scattered along the coast facing Taiwan and Japan.
Kashin, who attended the recent Airshow China in Zhuhai, said that with a range of 400 kilometers and fielded in Fujian Province, the SAM system will be able to cover the whole of Taiwan airspace, thus finally solving the “problem of air superiority for the Chinese.”
If China chooses to deploy the S-400 in Shandong Province, it will provide coverage of airspace over the Senkaku Islands. “That will be another asymmetric capability, together with anti-ship ballistic missiles, which will boost Chinese potential in dealing with the local conflicts in East Asia,” Kashin said.
China has staked a claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which it refers to as the Diaoyu Islands. Other factors suggesting China will deploy the S-400 over the East China Sea include the fact that China declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, including the Senkakus, in November 2013.
The S-400 will give China more confidence in controlling airspace over Taiwan, and will serve as a critical factor in defeating Taiwan’s air defense capabilities during a war, said York Chen, a former senior adviser of Taiwan’s National Security Council.
After China’s surface-to-surface missiles destroy Taiwan’s air bases and runways at the beginning of a conflict, the S-400 could target remaining fighter aircraft that managed to reach the air beforehand, not to mention any US or Japanese fighters coming to Taiwan’s aid during the battle.

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