Ukraine Proved $40 Million Worth of Missiles Breaks Russia and China’s S-400 Air Defense

Ukraine Proved $40 Million Worth of Missiles Breaks Russia and China’s S-400 Air Defense

Ukraine was able to destroy a submarine and a navy landing ship in dry dock but under the protection of several Russian S-400 anti-missile systems. It is interesting for how they succeeded because it effects how we think about China’s air defenses. Ukraine defeated the S-400 anti-missile batteries and radar. Russia has about three times as many S-400 systems as China does. Each set is 8 launchers and 32 missiles. 16+ sets Russia and China bought 6 sets and has older S-300s. Ukraine was able to overwhelm the S-400s with drones, cheap S-200s and then anti radar missiles and then the UK Storm Shadow missile. $40 Million of attacking missiles beat $400-800 million of defending systems. China defending systems would be 3 times more costly. China bought from Russia and Russia charged a market price of about $500-625 million each instead ofthe $200 million cost to Russia. The UK Storm Shadow missiles are about $2 million each.

Ukraine started with a distraction attack using suicide explosive ship drones. They then launched some S-200 missiles to allow them to identify the Russian air defense. Ukraine launched anti-radar missiles to blind the air defense and then they launched the Storm Shadow missiles.

This shows that the Russian S-400 systems are fairly sophisticated and effective. It shows that multi-pronged missile attacks can overwhelm the defense systems. A regular S-400 battalion consists of up to eight launchers with 32 missiles and a mobile command post. TASS reported that as of the end of 2015, a total of eleven Russian missile regiments were armed with S-400, and by the end of 2016 their number was expected to increase to sixteen.

China has at least six batteries of S-400.

Here is the 196 page, 2022 US Military assessment of China’ Military.

The PRC has a robust and redundant IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) architecture over land areas and within 300 nm (556 km) of its coast that relies on an extensive early warning radar network, fighter aircraft, and a variety of SAM systems. The PRC has also placed radars and air defense weapons on outposts in the South China Sea, further extending the range of its IADS. It also employs point defenses, primarily to defend strategic targets against adversary long-range cruise missiles and airborne strike platforms.

The PLA has increasing numbers of advanced long-range SAMs, including its indigenous CSA-9 (HQ-9) and its follow-on HQ-9B, Russian SA-10 (S300PMU), and SA-20 (S300PMU1 / PMU2), all of which have the advertised capability to protect against both aircraft and low-flying cruise missiles. To improve its strategic air defenses, the PLA possesses Russian-built SA-21 (S-400) Triumf SAM systems as a follow-on to the SA-20. Compared to these other systems, the SA-21 systems possess a longer maximum range, improved missile seekers, and more sophisticated radars.

The PRC manufactures a variety of long-range air surveillance radars, including models claiming to support ballistic missile defense (BMD) and other models asserting the ability to detect stealth aircraft. Marketing materials also emphasize these systems’ ability to counter long-range airborne strike and combat support aircraft. PLAAF AEW and C aircraft such as the KJ-2000 and KJ-500 can further extend the PRC’s s radar coverage well past the range of its ground-based radars.

There is clearly no perfect defense. China has a lot of offensive missiles. In a US-China war both sides would be firing at each other.

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