China continues to add advanced missiles to its burgeoning “anti-access” arsenal with the purchase of 15 S-300 batteries, in a deal worth as much as $2.5 billion, according to Reuters. The Russian built S-300 (also known as the SA-20) air defense missiles have a reported range of 100 miles and are often qualitatively compared to the Patriot missile system.
An S-300 battery includes four trucks carrying four missiles each along with the seeker and target acquisition radar. Four S-300 batteries typically make up one air-defense battalion in the People’s Liberation Army. China has been buying S-300s for the past 20 years.
What surprises me the most about China’s appetite for Russian built air defense missiles is that they apparently haven’t been able to reverse engineer the S-300 design well enough to build them domestically. As reverse engineering is China’s stock in trade, it either speaks to the complexity of the S-300 or an indigenous defense industry unable to produce at least some of the more advanced precision weapons, even if their design is three decades old.