S-400 : Indian vs Chinese Regiments

China received its first S-400 regiment in July 2018. It is reported that China has ordered two S-400 regiments for an estimated $3 billion. On 5th Oct, during India-Russia bilateral annual summit held in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi & Russian President Putin finalized the deal of S-400 Triumf defense. India will get 5 regiments of S-400 and therefore the contract is worth 5.5 Billion USD. The delivery is expected to start in the next 2 years. But there's a difference between what Russia will deliver to India as compared is what's being delivered to China. 

S-400 : Indian vs Chinese Regiments

In this article, Defence Talks analyzes, how & why India's Russian made S-400 is better than that of China? Let's get in the details 


S-400 can be deployed with a diverse configuration. The primary radar of S-400 is either the 91N6E Big Bird Acquisition and Battle Management Radar or 92N6E Grave Stone Multimode Engagement Radar. The primary radars have a range of around 600 km. The main radar is assisted by target acquisition radars like 67N6 Gamma De and 9N6 Protivnik Ge radars in L band, Nebo SVU in the Very High-Frequency band, and Nebo m & Zebu M in multiband. 

Importantly S-400 deploys multiple missiles to cover its strike envelope. 

  1. Short-range 9M96E (40 km) with an active radar homing head having a speed of Mach 2.6 
  2. Medium-range 9M96E2 (120 km) with an active radar homing head having a speed of Mach 3 
  3. Long-range 48N6 (250 km) with an active radar homing head having a speed of Mach 14 
  4. Very-long-range 40N6 (400 km) with an active radar homing head having a speed of Mach 14. 
The S-400 regiments for China are devoid of the 40N6 missile, so even though it can detect a target at ranges up to 600 km, they can engage them only at a range of 250 km. 


The 40N6 missile is not just another missile but is the crown jewel of S-400 not only because of its range but also because of an important characteristic. The working of the missile is unlike a regular surface to air missile. The missile is designed to reach a very high altitude of 185 km and then hurl down to the target from that altitude like a ballistic missile. 
This brings into the table 3 different aspects. 
  1. It is capable of exo-atmospheric interception of Intermediate-Range Ballistic missile in their terminal phase. 
  2. Since the missile follows a ballistic trajectory, so its active radar homing heads will be illuminating the target aircraft from above at some angle. This creates trouble for even the stealthy 5th generation fighter jets since the stealth shape of these aircraft are not as effective in camouflaging them from radar in this situation as opposed to when being illuminated from under the airframe. 
  3. The missile also picks up speed on the dive like an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), as opposed to a regular surface to air missiles that lose speed in the final leg. This will make it very hard for an aircraft to shrug off. The 40N6 is also a fairly large missile and is equipped with a 300 meters radius fragmented blast warhead that connected to a proximity fuse. So, even if the missile doesn’t score a direct hit and has a near miss, the target would still be destroyed. 


There are 2 factors which individually or in combination have resulted in 40N6 missile not being provided to China. 
  1. Russia is a signatory of the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) and India has also become its member recently. But China is not a member of MTCR. According to the MTCR guidelines Russia is not supposed to export or jointly develop a missile with a none MTCR nation, whose range is more than 300 KM. 
  2. Russia is conscious of China’s rampant reverse engineering. Over the years China has copied several Russian weapon platforms with total disregard for intellectual property rights & contractual obligations. The Chinese have often bought limited quantities and then reverse engineer the weapons. 
For example, Shenyang J-11 based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 & J-15 Flying Shark is an illegal copy of the Russian SU-33. The impact of this copy is so large that some quarters of the Russian power circle objected to selling the S-400 to China. The deal was eventually sealed after Russian analysts felt that S-400 is too complicated to copy and it seems, as an extra precaution they are not providing the platform’s most lethal missile.

Post a Comment