By Gao Xiaozheng and Liu Yang
The picture shows the Russian-made S-400 air defense missile system.
Recently, Moscow has commenced the delivery of the second regiment set of Russian-made S-400 air-defense missile system to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to Russian media reports. The news got media attention as expected.
On July 29, the Singaporean media even heralded deployment of the missile system as a game changer. Once completing the deployment of the missile system, the PLA will take greater dominance on the Taiwan Strait. However, Chinese experts think that foreign media linkup of the missile system with the Taiwan Strait is a deliberate hype.
Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao said that Moscow delivered S-400 air defense system to Beijing in advance as cross-strait tensions were escalating, and that the PLA would better control the cross-strait situation through the deployment of the missile system.
The US website Defense News thought that the attack range of the missile system would cover the Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan, if the PLA deploy this missile system in coastal regions such as China's Shandong and Fujian provinces. It added that S-400 would change the rules of games in eastern Asia.
It reported a western expert analyzed that the role of the S-400 system would change from being defensive to be offensive through its extra long-range missiles and robust electronic warfare capability. Assuming that the PLA launches an attack on Taiwan, it would destroy the base and runway of Taiwan’s air force by utilizing lots of surface-to-surface missiles in the first place, and then the remaining Taiwan fighter jets will be attacked by the S-400 even before take-off. In this case, the PLA would thoroughly gain control of air supremacy over the Taiwan Strait and cut off military assistance to Taiwan from the US and Japan.
However, Chinese experts pointed out that dubbing it as a “game changer” is quite exaggerating, despite the Russian defense system’s advanced functions. And the narrative that the Taiwanese aircraft will be shot down before take-off if the PLA deploys it along the southeastern coast of China lacks the basic military sense.
In addition, with the constant updating of air-raid means and the rapid development of electronic warfare technology, one cannot count on one or two air defense system to change the rules of the game.
The efficiency of the equipment is dependent on both systemic support and the operators’ dynamic role. Meanwhile, even though the function of the S-400 missile system is superior, it cannot change its role as defensive arms in nature.
Experts explained that the data displayed in previous air show only indicated that the 48N6E3 type missiles within the maximum range of 250 kilometers are available to export. In fact, even if utilizing the missile within the maximum range of 400 kilometers, the missile cannot shoot down any target at any altitude within the range of 400 kilometers due to the curvature of the earth. To shoot down targets within 400 kilometers, the flying altitude of the target will usually be above 10,000 meters, which may not be reached at take-off.
Experts further stated that Chinese mainland has gained superior military dominance over Taiwan without the deployment of S-400 missile system to strengthen its advantage. Once the PLA takes any action, foreign media will associate it with cross-strait situation just like this deliberate hype.