Russian S-400 missiles for Iran

Want China Times — March 1, 2015

While commenting on the prospect that Russia might provide Iran with its S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system, Russian defense company Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov stated that the US$1.9 billion contract for four S-400 systems announced between Russia and China was signed back in September 2014.

Chemezov announced that Russia has proposed supplying several Antey-2500 anti-ballistic missile systems to Iran at an international defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 23, according to a Feb. 24 report in Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

S-300 air defense systems. Click to enlarge

S-300 air defense systems. Click to enlarge

Moscow is likely hoping that this will draw an end to the legal battle over Russia’s rescinding of its offer to sell the S-300PMU-1 system to Iran in 2007, for which Tehran is seeking US$1 billion in compensation. If Iran is unwilling to accept the Antey-2500 as a replacement, Russia may consider selling Iran the new S-400 anti-aircraft system instead.

Chemezov said that Russia proposed the deal to Iran around two months ago and Tehran is still considering the proposal.

A representative from the developer of the missile system, Almaz-Antey’s aerospace subsidiary Aerospace Defense Concern, declined to comment on the report on Feb. 23.

Rosoboronexport signed the deal for five S-300PMU-1 anti-aircraft missile systems with Iran’s defense ministry in 2007 for US$800 million. Tehran paid a deposit of US$167 million immediately and Almaz-Antey began manufacturing. Iran never received the systems, however, as the UN Security Council passed a resolution to ban the provision of modern weapons to Iran three years after the deal was made.

In September 2012, Russia’s then president Dmitry Medvedev gave the order for the implementation of the resolution and Moscow imposed sanctions on Iran. Although the Russian company returned the deposit, Iran took Rosoboronexport to an international arbitration hearing in Geneva, seeking compensation of US$4 billion. Moscow has called for a peaceful resolution to the affair, promising first to provide the Tor-M1V anti-aircraft missile system, but the proposal was rejected by Tehran.

By this time the S-300 systems originally promised to Iran had already been dismantled and their parts had been used for other purposes. In June 2013 Kommersant reported twice that the Antey-2500 anti-aircraft missile system would be provided instead to resolve the issue, but this was not confirmed by the government until a year and a half later.

A source from Rostec said that the new S-400 anti-aircraft defense system is being held as a backup proposal. A source from Tehran’s diplomatic service confirmed this, stating that Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu had discussed the issue when on an official visit to Tehran. At the time Russia said it was engaging in research into the feasibility of offering Tehran the S-400 system. This may be a more attractive proposition for Tehran than the Antey-2500 system. Moscow has stated that it is only willing to discuss a deal involving the S-400 system on the condition that Iran withdraw its compensation suit. A source from the Kremlin stated on Feb. 23 that getting Iran to revoke the filing is a priority, as it will be the first step in normalizing relations between the two countries and will allow for cooperation in technology.

For Russia, providing Iran with the Antey-2500 system would be preferable as Almaz-Antey is already busy with an existing 56 orders for the S-400 system, including four for China, which it is expected to complete by 2020.

The company’s new anti-aircraft defense system production line, set to be based in Kirov and Nizhny Novgorod, won’t start production earlier than 2016, the report said.

Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the United States Department of State, said that the US will oppose the deal between Russia and Iran.

The S-400 has a maximum firing trajectory of 400 km and can target 72 targets at once and simultaneously attack 36 targets. It is capable of destroying targets flying at altitudes of over 30,000 m down to those flying at low altitudes to a minimum of 5 m.


Russian S-400, current mainstay air defence system. Click to enlarge

Russian S-400, current mainstay air defence system.