Saturday, August 25, 2007

Samoderzhets Decloaked


The introduction of the S-400 strategic SAM system into the operational inventory of the Russian air defense network has resulted in increased speculation over the nature of the next-generation of Russian SAM systems. One of the most common misconceptions appears to be the belief that a new SAM system referred to as Samoderzhets is being prepared for front-line service.


The development of the next generation of Russian SAM systems can be traced back to 1979 when the first S-300PT batteries were accepted for service. Over the course of the S-300P's lifetime, various modifications have surfaced, each providing an incremental increase in capability over the last variant.

The principal S-300P variants were as follows:

S-300PT: Initial trailer-launched SAM system employing 5N63 (FLAP LID) target engagement radar (TER) and 5V55K missile.

S-300PS: Initial mobile SAM system with components mounted on 8x8 chassis, introduced 5N63S/30N6 (30N6E) TER and 5V55R missile.

S-300PM (export variant: S-300PMU): Introduced digital connectivity between components and 5V55RUD missile.

S-300PM-1 (export variant: S-300PMU-1): Introduced new 30N6-1 (30N6E1, TOMB STONE) TER, and 48N6 (48N6E) missile.

S-300PM-2 (export variant: S-300PMU-2): Introduced 48N6D (48N6E2) missile, as well as 9M96 (9M96E) and 9M96D (9M96E2) missiles, although there is no evidence that the latter two weapons have been fielded with Russian units.

S-300PM-3: developmental variant aimed at increased range with 48N6DM missile and new TER (GRAVE STONE). Evolved into the S-400 (SA-X-21).

As early as 1984, two other advanced SAM systems were stated to be in development, the S-500 and S-1000. The S-500 was a new long-range, mobile ATBM system, analogous to the American THAAD system currently in development. The S-1000 was described as a very long-range SAM designed to target air-breathing targets such as ISR platforms and other support aircraft. Where the S-300P was the successor to the S-25 (SA-1 GUILD) in the Moscow air defense network, the S-1000 was possibly intended to be deployed as a partial replacement for the S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON); S-300P units have replaced S-200 units in some areas, but only the most recent iterations can claim to have a range anywhere near that of the massive 300 kilometers attained by the S-200. Neither the S-500 nor the S-1000 were anywhere near operational service, as they only existed as concepts throughout the 1980s. Recent analysis would seem to suggest, however, that both systems will eventually be operationally employed, with at least one of them being mentioned by name as recently as August 2007.

It is likely that the S-1000 has actually been absorbed into the S-400. The intended capabilities of the S-1000 seem to match up with the S-400's 40N6 missile, a product of OKB Fakel, who has historically been responsible for the development of long-range strategic SAM missiles such as the 5V21 employed by the S-200 and the 48N6 employed by the S-300PM-1. The likely course of development could have seen the S-300PM-3 and S-1000 combined into a new system, the S-400, utilizing common system components and radars. This would explain the delays in fielding the S-400 as well as the current status of the 40N6 program. Radars would need to be suitably altered to support longer-range engagements, and the S-1000's weapon would need to be refined and complete development allowing it to function as part of the S-400 system.


In May of 2002 the producer of the S-300P, the Almaz design bureau, was merged with the Antey design bureau, creator of the S-300V tactical SAM system, to form the Almaz-Antey Air Defense Concern. This effectively consolidated all of the long-range SAM and ATBM experience into one organization. The new association resulted in a whole new concept of thinking regarding the boundaries between tactical and strategic air defense.


Despite the merger of Almaz and Antey, projects which had previously been active did continue development. These included the Antey-2500/S-300VM (SA-X-23) and the latest S-300P iteration, the S-300PM-3, which had by then morphed into the S-400. Future projects, however, would need to take full advantage of the consolidated expertise offered by the new corporation. Enter Samoderzhets.

Samoderzhets was a program begun shortly after the merger of Almaz and Antey aimed at identifying the characteristics and capabilities of new SAM systems operating on a national level. The research effort was conducted by the Second Central Scientific Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense. Deputy Defense Minister General of the Army Aleksey Moskovskiy, in a December 2004 interview for Vestnik Vozdushnogo Flota, described Samoderzhets as a project aimed at finding an "optimal solution" for the development of new air defense systems, systems capable of performing tasks for both the Army and PVO air defense, and operating within a national integrated air defense network framework:

"The name you mentioned, Samoderzhets, is not a system. It is a system project to look for an optimal solution."

General Moskovskiy goes on to state that an actual SAM system like the one outlined in the Samoderzhets project would most likely not be procured anytime soon as it would be "superfluous", as the S-400 was nearing service entry, but does state that modifying S-400 components to operate in such a manner (implying a national integrated network) was possible. The reason for integrating such systems would be to better coordinate air defense assets, and to better integrate the anti-missile capabilities of S-300V type systems (which are presently Russian Army assets, being tactical systems) into the national defense network. Ergo, the creation of an actual weapon system was not the goal of Samoderzhets, but rather the description and outlining of a new national framework to better control and integrate present and future systems to maximize their effectiveness, as well as the delineation and outlining of capabilities required by the individual systems serving in such a network. Official news regarding the Samoderzhets project virtually disappeared after 2004. There was a logical explanation for this, however: the research program was completed in 2004.

Samoderzhets was clearly never intended to result in the direct production of a new SAM system bearing the name, but it was a very important research endeavour, especially in the light of the new Almaz-Antey consortium. Future SAM systems will likely be designed around the system requirements and framework researched and outlined in the Samoderzhets project. In fact, early 2007 saw the mention of such a system. Sergey Ivanov, Russian Defense Minister, gave Almaz-Antey the task to develop a new air defense system capable for the first time of providing air defense, missile defense, and space defense. Such a project would seem to be revolutionary in concept, but seems perfectly logical as a next step given the results of the Samoderzhets project, and has been given until 2015 to produce hardware. 2015 may not seem that far off, especially given the delays associated with the S-400 system, but the new all-encompassing system has in fact been mentioned as early as 2005, and may have been in development before then.

It should be noted that the term "air defense system" does not necessarily imply one specific system such as the S-400, but could very well imply a series of systems, in this case the S-400 and S-500, integrated under a united national network, such as the kind outlined under the Samoderzhets project.

It is likely that the new system will build upon the S-400, using S-400 components for air defense. The missile defense component will likely be the aforementioned S-500 system, referred to in some sources as Vlastelin. The S-500 re-entered the public eye in August of 2007. On the 6th of August, Igor Ashurbeyli of Almaz-Antey was interviewed on Channel One TV in Russia regarding the first S-400 battery being activated near Elektrostal. Ashurbeyli stated that the next project for Almaz-Antey was the S-500, a mobile anti-missile system designed to function as part of the "unified system of Russia's air defense", a clear reference to Ivanov's statements in February and the concepts researched under Samoderzhets. Development of the S-500, according to some sources, had ended at one point in the past due to a lack of funding, but could easily have been restarted, saving Almaz-Antey from having to come up with a new anti-missile system from scratch. The S-500 is also believed to be related to the 45T6 anti-ballistic missile, which would certainly enable it to potentially perform exoatmospheric intercepts.

Confusion resulting from the appearance of the Samoderzhets name in press reporting did lead to the assumption that a new system was being developed, but as Samoderzhets was a project only, this is clearly not the case. There are a few reasons why certain assumptions about the potential new system were made, however, and they can be logically explained.

Samoderzhets is often claimed to be a SAM system integrating S-300P/S-400 and S-300V components. This is basically true, but not in a physical sense. Samoderzhets called for the integration of existing systems into a national level network, while designing new systems to operate in such a manner from the outset, regardless of whether or not they were employed by the Army or the Air Defense Troops. These systems would have, according to General Moskovskiy, included the S-300P and S-300V families. They would have been integrated, but not in a physical sense, as many have incorrectly assumed.

Samoderzhets was also described as combining the best aspects of previously developed SAM systems, and serving as the basis for a new standardized SAM system. This is partly correct; Samoderzhets would have integrated S-300V and S-300P/S-400 type systems, enabling their effectiveness to be maximized. Samoderzhets does also form the basis for new SAM development, as it outlined the framework under which new systems will operate, as well as their desired performance characteristics.

The main nail in the coffin of the Samoderzhets argument is the 2007 tasking to develop a new SAM system. Were Samoderzhets already a developed system by 2004, as some suggest, a new air and missile defense system would clearly not have been required. Furthermore, the Samoderzhets project was already three years past its completion date by 2007. As such the project initiated in 2007 would not have required a 2015 demonstration date; were Samoderzhets a true SAM system, completed in 2004, it would be ready for deployment far earlier than 2015. Lastly, the S-500 has been mentioned as the next SAM system to be developed for operational use, not Samoderzhets.

Some sources have claimed that Samoderzhets was proposed as an alternative to the S-400. In that light Samoderzhets may have been intended to result in a hybrid system, but the induction of the S-400 into front-line service would seem to be enough to put that theory to rest.

A final argument against the development of Samoderzhets as an actual SAM system is that it would represent both a waste of effort, given the S-500 development program for the anti-missile role, and a reduction in capability when compared to the S-400. In the anti-aircraft role the S-300VM's 9M83M missile has a range of 200 kilometers, a full 50 or 100 kilometers shy of the two range figures quoted for the 48N6DM employed by the S-400, even without considering the 400 kilometer range attained by the S-400's 40N6. Furthermore, Samoderzhets cannot be the new S-500 system, provided of course that both Ivanov and Ashurbeyli were referring to the same system. If, as many sources would have us believe, Samoderzhets represents a combination of S-300VM and S-400 systems, then the resultant system would fail to achieve the performance specified by Ivanov insofar as intercepting exoatmospheric targets is concerned.

Samoderzhets as a research endeavour is a far more logical explanation in light of the current evidence.


Samoderzhets was a very important project, one which will help to outline and govern the framework and interoperability of Russian air defense units for some time. But Samoderzhets was not a SAM system development effort, and no Samoderzhets system will be operating in Russia. The task of defending the skies and space over Russia will fall in the future to the S-400 and S-500 systems.


-New Russian SAM System Said Superior to Patriot, Has Multipurpose Capability (Moscow Vremya Novostey, 13 August 2004 p. 4)
-Russia approves Almaz-Antei merger (David Isby, Jane's Missiles & Rockets, 1 June 2002)
-Russian Defense Ministry to state performance specifications for new air defense system (Interfax, 4 October 2004)
-Russia to Develop New Air, Missile, Space Defense "Superweapon" (Vremya Novostey, 28 February 2007)
-Russian Channel One TV broadcast (6 August 2007)
-Russia looks to bolster air defence (James O'Halloran, Jane's Defence Weekly, 7 March 2007)
-Advantages of Upgraded Versus New Technology (Vestnik Vozhdushnogo Flota, 31 December 2004)
-Second Central Scientific Research Institute of MoD Receives Pennant (Krasnaya Zvezda, 22 November 2005)
-Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FLANKERs In Imagery


The Su-27 (FLANKER) is one of the most famous aircraft to come out of Russia. The result of a Cold-War requirement for an aircraft capable of besting the latest fighter aircraft the West had to offer, Sukhoi's T-10S design represented the pinnacle of Russian aerodynamic achievement in the 20th Century. The Su-27 design eventually spawned numerous variants, including the carrier capable Su-27K (FLANKER-D) and the Su-34 (FULLBACK) strike aircraft.


Su-27s and their offspring are employed by various nations worldwide. This article will provide an overview of all FLANKER users with airframes visible in overhead imagery provided by Google Earth. This is in no way a representation of every Su-27 user, or an accurate representation of true inventories, but rather an analysis of available imagery. As such, known Su-27 operators such as Indonesia and Angola are not covered; this does not suggest that there has been an oversight on the part of the author, but rather that there are no visible Su-27 airframes in these nations.

There are currently 498 FLANKER-family airframes visible in the available imagery. They operate from 29 airbases in 10 nations. Each nation will be detailed in the following format:

NATION (total number of airframes visible)

-Location: (coordinates)
-Inventory: (number and type; this field will be repeated for different types visible at a given airfield)

(Imagery highlights; not a visible representation of every FLANKER, but rather interesting or unusual aircraft)

(Image of identified FLANKER bases where more than one location has been identified)

Su-27 family types will be identified using the following designators:

Su-27: denotes Su-27 or Su-27UB, or export versions thereof
Su-30K: denotes Indian Su-30K
Su-30KI: denotes Russian single-seat prototype
Su-30MKI: denotes Indian advanced fighter aircraft
Su-30MKK: denotes Chinese twin-seat strike fighter
Su-33: denotes Russian carrier-based Su-27 derivative
Su-34: denotes Russian strike derivative
Su-35: denotes Russian advanced fighter derivative
J-11: denotes Chinese kit-assembled Su-27SK or UBK
FLANKER: generic designator used to denote an Su-27 or derivative where imagery cannot determine the type; for example, KnAAPO-located Su-27s are denoted as FLANKER as they cannot be identified as Su-27 or Su-27SM aircraft when both types are known to operate at the location


Identifying individual types is a detailed process that involves both a knowledge of standard recognition features, and the inventory of the nation being examined. Most FLANKER variants cannot be specifically identified due to the resolution of the imagery available. There are, however, features that are visible that can aid in identifying certain specific types. These features are the configuration of the tail structure which extends aft between the engine nozzles, and the presence or lack of canard foreplanes.

The basic Su-27

A lineup of basic Su-27s can be seen below. Note the lack of canards, and the standard-length tail structure:

The Su-30 and Su-30MKI

Tandem twin-seat FLANKERs such as the Su-27UB and Su-30 are not able to be distinguished using the available imagery. In the case of India, however, all FLANKER-family aircraft are of the tandem twin-seat variety, being either Su-30K or Su-30MKI variants. The two types are distinguishable as the Su-30MKI features visible canard foreplanes.

The following image depicts four Su-30K and one Su-30MKI aircraft visible at Pune AB in India. The arcraft on the north end of the lineup is the Su-30MKI. Note how the starboard canard is visible, as well as its associated shadow on the runway, differentiating this aircraft from the others in the lineup. The white rectangular shapes which appear to cover the port sides of the aircraft are actually markings on the runway.

The Su-33

The Su-33 is identifiable thanks to its shorter tail structure and the presence of canards, as evidenced in the image below. The aircraft on the right is an Su-33, and is also displaying another characteristic of the aircraft which is sometimes visible in overhead imagery: folding wings to permit storage at sea. In contrast, the FLANKER on the left possesses the standard tail structure. Canards make the aircraft either an Su-30MKI or an Su-35, both of which have been trialled at Akhtubinsk where the image was taken.

The Su-34

The Su-34 is easily identifiable. While the altered forward fuselage and side-by-side cockpit layout is not discernable, the tail structure of greatly increased length is readily distinguishable, as can be seen in the following image of three Su-34s parked at Akhtubinsk:

RUSSIA (376)

Akhtubinsk Flight Test Center
-Location: 48°18'24.62"N 46°12'08.80"E
-Inventory: 18 FLANKER, 1 Su-33, 3 Su-34

The following image depicts the primary Sukhoi ramp at Akhtubinsk:

-Location: 61°53'11.51"N 34°09'21.87"E
-Inventory: 28 Su-27

-Location: 54°46'00.03"N 20°23'45.05"E
-Inventory: 24 Su-27

-Location: 69°05'41.83"N 32°24'04.19"E
-Inventory: 38 Su-27

-Location: 50°36'20.98"N 137°04'52.80"E
-Inventory: 64 FLANKER, 1 Su-30KI

The following image depicts the Su-30KI demonstrator at the KnAAPO facility:

-Location: 45°05'02.94"N 38°56'47.78"E
-Inventory: 18 Su-27

-Location: 44°57'52.14"N 38°00'05.46"E
-Inventory: 47 Su-27

-Location: 55°36'45.74"N 36°39'00.97"E
-Inventory: 15 Su-27, 5 Su-35

The following image depicts 6 Su-27 and 5 Su-35 aircraft in service with the "Russian Knights" aerial demonstration team, based at Kubinka AB:

The following image depicts a "Russian Knights" Su-27 in a probable maintenance area at Kubinka AB:

-Location: 46°32'20.71"N 39°33'04.87"E
-Inventory: 9 Su-27

Lodeynoye Pole
-Location: 60°42'33.90"N 33°34'03.08"E
-Inventory: 28 Su-27

-Location: 59°41'05.32"N 30°20'15.14"E
-Inventory: 24 Su-27

-Location: 68°52'04.55"N 33°43'06.85"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-33

The following image depicts the Su-33 parking apron at Severomorsk-3 AB:

Tsentralnaya Uglovaya
-Location: 43°20'56.01"N 132°03'33.89"E
-Inventory: 30 Su-27

-Location: 43°54'32.00"N 131°55'32.52"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-27

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in Western Russia:

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in Eastern Russia:

Su-27 airframes are also visible at the following locations inside Russia:

Central Armed Forces Museum
-Location: 55°47'05.76"N 37°37'06.94"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-27

Irkutsk Southeast
-Location: 52°16'16.68"N 104°20'52.98"E
-Inventory: 1 FLANKER

Khodynka Air Museum
-Location: 55°47'16.67"N 37°32'04.73"E
-Inventory: the T10-20 development aircraft


-Location: 53°05'44.11"N 26°02'51.49"E
-Inventory: 9 Su-27

CHINA (20)

-Location: 38°24'10.37"N 116°55'51.65"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-30MKK

Dingxin Flight Test Center
-Location: 40°23'58.08"N 99°47'34.81"E
-Inventory: 4 FLANKER

-Location: 21°23'46.28"N 110°11'56.66"E
-Inventory: 1 FLANKER

-Location: 31°23'26.43"N 118°24'35.19"E
-Inventory: 8 Su-30MKK

-Location: 40°44'20.77"N 114°55'52.56"E
-Inventory: 5 J-11

The following image depicts identified FLANKER bases in China:

An Su-27 airframe is also visible at the following location inside China:

Shenyang Aircraft Corporation
-Location: 41°52'11.65"N 123°26'21.81"E
-Inventory: 1 J-11


Asmara International Airport
-Location: 15°17'16.41"N 38°54'28.41"E
-Inventory: 2 Su-27


Debre Zeyt
-Location: 08°42'59.43"N 39°00'21.02"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-27

INDIA (19)

-Location: 28°25'22.37"N 79°26'56.73"E
-Inventory: 10 Su-30K

-Location: 18°34'55.66"N 73°55'22.05"E
-Inventory: 6 Su-30K, 3 Su-30MKI


-Location: 45°07'21.15"N 78°26'33.87"E
-Inventory: 22 Su-27


-Location: 50°09'30.22"N 28°44'24.34"E
-Inventory: 14 Su-27


-Location: 38°50'01.00"N 65°55'18.57"E
-Inventory: 25 Su-27


Bien Hoa
-Location: 10°58'31.85"N 106°49'08.29"E
-Inventory: 1 Su-27


-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The IMINT & Analysis Forum

A new discussion forum has been established as a companion to this site:


Chinese Military Modernization


China has always been a nation of interesting people, outstanding Szechuan cuisine, and fascinating culture. China has a history of military prowess, from the brilliant strategist Sun Tzu to the modern million-man army. That being said, it was not until the very late stages of the 20th Century, however, that the Chinese military machine began to wander out from the dark and truly enter the modern world.

China's problem, since the end of the Second World War, has been one of technological inferiority. For most of the post-war period, Chinese military doctrine seemed to stress quantity over quality; our weapons are inferior, but the 10,000 soldiers we have holding them will be able to overrun your 2,500 modern fighting men, for example. Interestingly, there appeared to be something of a disconnect in this doctrine. Some modern weapons, like the nuclear bomb or the anti-ballistic missile, were developed and/or fielded. Others, like the modern fighter aircraft, were apparently ignored. Beginning with the end of the 20th Century, however, the Chinese military machine began a widespread modernization program designed to make the People's Liberation Army (PLA) a modern, effective fighting force. That effort continues to this day, and the effects can be witnessed through the examination of overhead imagery detailing certain key facilities and installations scattered throughout China.

The following overhead map of China depicts the locations of the items discussed in this article:


Airpower is one of the most important components of modern warfare. For the longest time, the Chinese PLAAF and PLANAF had to rely on imported and copied Soviet aircraft. One of the more common examples was the MiG-21 (FISHBED), remanufactured and redesigned over the years as the Chengdu J-7. During the 1980's the PLAAF and PLANAF could boast thousands of J-7s and other aircraft types on strength, but these aircraft all had some key flaws: they were short ranged, and they lacked any modern fire control systems coupled with BVR weapon systems.

China's first solution was to enter into an agreement with the United States under the PEACE PEARL program to modernize a number of Shenyang J-8II heavy interceptors with APG-66 radars and associated weapons. Another facet of this international collaboration would have been the production of the Super-7, a modernized J-7 design featuring a reprofiled nose, side-mounted intakes, and modern systems. Unfortunately, the activities of the Chinese government surrounding the Tianamen Square incident effectively ended any Sino-American collaboration efforts. The Super-7 has recently re-emerged as the FC-1, a cheap, lightweight replacement for the J-7, primarily useful for third-world countries where more modern fighter aircraft are cost-prohibitive or not required.

The next solution to the modern airpower issue was to import Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 (FLANKER) fighter jets. The Su-27 was arguably the penultimate example of Russian fighter design, coupling a capable weapon system with a sophisticated, maneuverable aircraft design capable of physically outperforming the latest Western designs in terms of sheer maneuverability. Eventually China would import large numbers of Su-27SKs as well as Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 multi-role, two-seat variants. Unfortunately, the import of Russian-made fighter aircraft was not going to magically jump-start the Chinese aviation industry. While it is true that many of the Su-27s were license-built by Shenyang, who has subsequently modified the design as the J-11B, incorporating Chinese engines, avionics, and weapons, China still needed an indigenous solution.

The answer to China's modern fighter needs would be provided by the J-7's manufacturer, in the form of the Chengdu J-10. The J-10 is a modern fighter aircraft capable of employing the PL-12, a Chinese AMRAAM equivalent, and performing a variety of tasks thanks to a multi-role avionics suite. The J-10 features a modern glass cockpit and a canard-delta layout, currently favored by European fighter manufacturers. The J-10 is currently being inducted into operational service in increasing numbers, and will likely form the backbone of the PLAAF for years to come.

The following image depicts a number of J-10s on the ramp at the Chengdu flight test facility. These aircraft are likely either prototypes or preproduction aircraft serving in a flight test capacity.

Gucheng airbase was one of the first locations to receive operational J-10s, three of which can be seen in the image below:

An important part of any combat aircraft's test regimen is weapons integration. Weapons systems must be trialled to ensure that they function effectively, and individual armament types must be verified to ensure proper operation and integration with the carrier aircraft. In China, airborne weapons testing is done at Dingxin airbase, situated on the massive military testing range at Shuangchengzi.

The following image provides an overview of the Shuangchengzi test complex:

The following image provides an overview of Dingxin airbase:

One issue with current free imagery services like Google Earth is that imagery can be updated over time, and some rather interesting sights can be removed from view. The next three images are examples of some of the fascinating sights at Dingxin airbase which have disappeared due to a recent Google Earth imagery update and are no longer visible to the public. Let this be a lesson to the imagery analyst or casual observer: if you see something interesting, save a copy of the image, you don't know if it will be there the next time you look!

The following image depicts two J-10s on the ramp at Dingxin AB:

Visible here at Dingxin are examples of two of the PLAAF's current AEW&C projects, the KJ-2000 (based on the Il-76 airframe), and a Y-8 derivative referred to as the "Balance Beam" due to the shape and mounting of the radar array:

The following image would seem to depict some sort of official presentation underway at Dingxin AB. Various aircraft types, including the KJ-2000 and J-10, are visible.


While the modernization efforts in Chinese military aviation are substantial, the efforts underway in updating the PLAN's surface and submarine fleet are equally impressive. Until recently, Chinese naval vessels have lagged far behind those of the West in terms of weapons capability. The most serious deficiency was in the realm of air defense.

China's naval re-equipment and modernization began with the purchase of Sovremennyy-class DDGs from Russia. Fitted with 3M80 anti-ship missiles, the Sovremennyys also boasted the Shtil (SA-N-7 GADFLY) and Shtil-1 (SA-N-12 GRIZZLY) naval SAM systems, providing China's surface fleet with its first modern, ocean-going air defense capability, a capability critical for any nation wishing to possess a blue-water ocean-going naval force. More recent efforts have focused on producing indigenous classes of modern destroyers and frigates, complete with modern weapon systems to replace the outdated legacy systems found on older classes of Chinese-produced warships. One such example is the 052B DDG, which has been fitted with the Shtil-1 SAM system.

The most significant new ship classes, by far, are the 051C and 052C DDGs. The 052C was the first of the two classes to enter service and is fitted with an Aegis-type phased array radar system to control the HHQ-9 SAM system, a derivative of the land-based HQ-9. The 051C lacks the phased-array radar system of the 052C, but is fitted with a far more capable SAM system in the form of the imported Russian-made S-300FM (SA-N-20 GARGOYLE), controlled by a 30N6E1 (TOMB STONE) radar mounted on the rear of the vessel. Even when compared to the Shtil-armed Sovremennyys and 052B DDGs, the 051C and 052C represent a quantum leap in Chinese naval air defense.

The following image depicts a Type 051C DDG in Dalian shipyard:

The ultimate form of naval power is the aircraft carrier. While Chinese production of an indigenous aircraft carrier is only speculation at ths time, there is some evidence to suggest that at least one aircraft carrier may soon enter service with the PLAN. The ex-Soviet carrier Varyag was purchased from the Ukraine in 1998, ostensibly to be used as a floating casino. The vessel was purchased in a 70% completed state from the Nikolayev shipyard where the Varyag was under construction before work halted with the fall of Communism in the USSR. Interestingly, the vessel took up residence in the PLAN shipyard in Dalian once it was finally delivered to China in 2002, suggesting that a floating casino was not what the Varyag was destined to become.

The following image depicts the Varyag at some point after delivery to Dalian:

The evidence that Varyag will soon be inducted into service with the PLAN is circumstantial at best, but it is certainly interesting. In 2005, the Varyag was painted in "PLAN grey", and in 2006 the scaffolding surrounding the superstructure was removed, suggesting that work on restoring the vessel to operational capability was nearing completion. It should be noted that as of yet, no systems have been seen being fitted to the Varyag, such as air search radars or CIWS, and no carrier-based aircraft currently exist in the PLAN. However, China has recently contracted for around 50 Sukhoi Su-27K carrier-based aircraft, designed to operate off of the Varyag and his Russian classmate, the Admiral Kuznetsov (the term "his" is used in deference to the Varyag's Russian designers, as Russian naval vessels are referred to by their sailors in the masculine).

The following image depicts the Varyag after being repainted in overall "PLAN grey":

The Varyag is not the first former-Soviet aircraft carrier to take up residence in Chinese waters. Two former Kiev-class carriers (or more appropriately, aircraft-carrying cruisers, to refer to them in native Russian naval terminology) have been acquired to serve as displays in northern and southern China.

The following image depicts the Kiev as it is currently displayed at a military park in Tianjin:

The following image depicts the Minsk as it currently appears at the Minsk World public theme park near Shenzhen:

The above two examples do offer some evidence that the Varyag may not in fact enter service with the PLAN. Notice that they are displayed painted in standard Russian military colors. Were the Chinese to display Varyag in the colors of a warship, repainting the vessel in the available "PLAN grey" paint scheme would be plausible as the Varyag's original Russian paint job was in no condition to be put on public display when it was delivered in 2002. It could then be argued that the vessel was placed at the PLAN dockyard in Dalian for study and analysis while it was repaired and fitted out for commercial use. This does not, however, explain the Su-27K purchase, apart perhaps from the possibility that an Su-27K fleet would take time to be delivered, and if PLANAF Su-27Ks were destined for an indigenous vessel they could still be employed on the Russian-Ukrainian naval training facility at Saki in the Crimean for initial pilot carrier qualification.

It is obvious that only time holds the answers to the mystery of the Varyag.

There is one further example of an aircraft carrier to be found in China. Situated on the grounds of the Shanghai Military Academy 50 kilometers from the open sea, a 70-percent scale replica of what appears to be a US Nimitz-class CVN is located in a small lake. The purpose of the vessel is unclear, save perhaps to serve as a training aid of some sort. It may even perhaps represent a conceptual Chinese carrier design, given the fact that the flight decks are festooned with Chinese combat aircraft, albeit older, legacy types not likely to ever see carrier-based service with China or any other air arm.

The following image depicts the aircraft carrier replica in Shanghai:

While much attention has been given to the modernization of China's surface fleet due in no small part to the speculation over the Varyag's true purpose, China has also been modernizing her submarine force as well. The newest and most modern SSN is the Type 093 Shang-class. Current Chinese nuclear submarine classes are constructed in the assembly halls of the Huludao shipyard northeast of Beijing.

The following image depicts a Type 093 SSN at Huludao:


China's strategic nuclear deterrent relies on the use of land-based and submarine-launched nuclear missiles. A number of Harbin H-6 (BADGER) bombers, copies of the Russian Tu-16, are also in service, but their age and expansive RCS precludes them from any serious nuclear warfighting apart from use as standoff cruise missile platforms. The primary Chinese ICBM currently in service is the DF-5 (CSS-4). The DF-5 is deployed in well-concealed silos around China. The DF-5 was initially trialled at the Shuangchengzi missile test facility, being pad-launched.

The following image depicts the SLV and ICBM launch pads at Shuangchengzi:

Modern road-mobile ICBMs like the DF-31 and DF-31A are trialled at the Wuzhai test center. Wuzhai also contains an ICBM silo used for test launches of the DF-5 (CSS-4) ICBM in a manner more akin to operational employment than a Shuangchengzi pad launch. The first silo launch of a DF-5 took place at Wuzhai on the 7th of January in 1979.

The following image is an overview of the Wuzhai test facility:

The following image depicts the northern launch facilities at Wuzhai, containing the DF-5 silo and a possible mobile ICBM launch pad:

The following image depicts the southern launch pad, a probable mobile ICBM launch facility:

The Wuzhai facility is also capable of launching pad-launched ICBMs and SLVs.

The following image depicts the Wuzhai fixed launch pad:

The naval component of the Chinese nuclear deterrent consists of two classes of SSBN. The first vessel, the Type 092 Xia, was China's first SSBN. It has been plagued by problems, however, and its JL-1 SLBM lacks the range to target the United States from Chinese-protected waters, making the Xia little more than a theater nuclear strike option. Perhaps due to these issues, only one Type 092 SSBN was ever completed.

The following image depicts the Xia in a drydock at the Jianggezhuang submarine base near Qingdao:

Experience with the Xia provided China with a valuable knowledge base in designing the replacement, the Type 094 Jin class. With the Jin class, the PLAN finally has a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent option. The new JL-2 SLBM allows the Type 094 SSBNs to range the United States while remaining safely in the protected waters of the Bo Hai Gulf.

The following image depicts a Jin-class SSBN at the Xiaopingdao submarine base near Dalian:


The final area of the Chinese military to see massive modernization in recent years is the strategic SAM network. Chinese strategic air defense had until recently relied upon the HQ-2 SAM system, an indigenous version of the Russian S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE). The HQ-2 suffers from relatively short range, lack of mobility, and relatively dated electronics, although some systems have been modified to cure the latter issue to a degree. The answer to China's modernization efforts is the HQ-9. The HQ-9 is a modern SAM system employing system components which appear to be based on those of the S-300PMU employed by the Chinese military.

The HQ-9 is currently undergoing trials at the Shuangchengzi SAM test facility, seen below:

The image below depicts the HQ-9 test pad at Shuangchengzi:

With all due respect to the Chinese SAM developers, imitation in the form of the HQ-9 may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Russian air defense systems are still the best in the world. As such, S-300P variants have been imported continuously over the last two decades, and components can be found around Beijing, Yutian, and Shanghai.

The following image depicts a key component to the S-300P SAM family, the 64N6 (BIG BIRD) EW radar:

For more information on the 64N6 and the S-300P, reference the following two articles: LINK LINK The second link also features a section detailing current Chinese S-300P deployment strategies.


The Chinese military is clearly well along the path to modernization into a world-class fighting force. There are a few choice oddities that can be found by browsing through imagery of China which may or may not have anything to do with the modernization efforts. They are, however, unusual, and certainly interesting, and as such will be detailed here.

The first oddities to be found in China are evidence of serious research into the WIG concept. The WIG concept was made famous by the Soviet military, who trialed various military WIGs on the Caspian Sea during the Cold War.

The following image depicts the 751G Swan WIG craft, located on the shores of the Dianshan Hu reservoir near Shanghai:

The following image depicts the XTW-4 WIG located on the grounds of the Qingdao seaplane facility, a military facility home to Harbin SH-5 amphibians, perhaps implying a military role for the XTW-4:

A further oddity can be found 45 kilometers northwest of the Chengdu flight test center. Here, a solitary Y-8 apparently resides in an open lot behind a small cluster of buildings. The aircraft is apparently mounted on some sort of catapult system, with a ramp at the end to aid in takeoff. The aircraft seems to be positioned for rapid escape, a one-way proposition as there is no way of landing the aircraft back at the facility. It is possible that the facility where the aircraft is located houses an entrance to an underground military facility. To necessitate a rapid escape system, there are only two logical purposes for such an underground facility. First, the theoretical facility may be associated with the storage or production of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. In the event of an incident, a rapid escape system for the staff and scientists would be a valuable asset. Secondly, the facility may be some sort of national military command and control post. In the event of attack, leadership from Beijing could use the facility as an alternate command post. An escape system would be valuable in the event of a potential counterstrike against the alternate facility.

The image below depicts the unusual Y-8 found near Chengdu:


Chinese Defence Today

-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Friday, August 3, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The S-300P SAM System: A Site Analysis


The S-300P SAM family is one of the most advanced and capable operational SAM systems in the world today. The S-300P SAM system was conceived to replace the S-25 (SA-1 GUILD) and the S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) as the primary long-range air defense system in the USSR. With the advent of lower-RCS targets like cruise missiles, legacy systems did not provide adequate capability to defend against attacks by such weapons. The S-300P began life as a overarching SAM system intended for use by both the Army and the air defense network. At an early stage, the project was split into two systems, the Army's S-300V (SA-12) and the S-300P.

THE S-300P

The S-300P is a long-range, mobile strategic SAM system. The system has been produced in numerous variants, and an in-depth look at the various system components and missiles employed by the system can be found here: LINK

Western designators for the S-300P variants will be provided here for clarity:


It should be noted that the S-300PM-1 was at one point designated the SA-10C GRUMBLE, before being redesignated due to the fact that a new engagement radar, the 30N6-1 (TOMB STONE) and a new missile, the 48N6, was employed. It should also be noted that the difference between the S-300PS and the S-300PM, apart from minor hardware differences and the introduction of a new missile for the S-300PM, was that the S-300PM introduced digital datalinks for connecting the TELs, radars, and command post in an effort to reduce system setup time. The S-300PT and S-300PS relied on physical cable connections between system components. The S-300PM and subsequent variants can still rely on cable connections, most often at prepared sites, to ensure a higher level of communications security.

Export variants are as follows:



There are two common battery configurations employed by the S-300P SAM system. The first relies on a typically prepared site with a tower-mounted engagement radar. The second relies on either a prepared or unprepared site with a mobile engagement radar vehicle. The number of TELs present varies from user to user, location to location, and variant to variant, and these differences will be discussed in the Deployment Strategies sections of this article.

The following annotated image of an S-300PT site near Severodvinsk depicts a battery employing tower-mounted engagement and 76N6 radars:

The following annotated image of an S-300PMU site near Sevastopol depicts a standard site layout employing a mobile engagement radar and a tower-mounted 76N6:

Some sites employing a mobile engagement radar still retain the tower assembly for mounting the radar should the need arise. The following site south of Voronezh depicts a mobile engagement radar being employed, with the 40V6 mast assembly positioned nearby in a lowered position:


There are many different iterations of S-300P site configurations. Most of them differ in the number, shape, and positioning of prepared revetments used to protect the components. However, it should be stressed that the S-300P is a mobile SAM system, and as such can be deployed almost anywhere. That being said, there are a few common site layouts that have been identified, and these layouts will be detailed here.

One of the more common S-300P site configurations is a central tower-mounted engagement radar surrounded on two sides by parralel "slanted-E" shaped divided revetments for TELs or missile reload canisters. A tower-mounted 76N6 is positioned nearby. This site layout is often featured around Moscow on the grounds of former S-25 (SA-1 GUILD) SAM sites, but is also featured elsewhere as well, such as in Belarus.

The following annotated image depicts an S-300PM-1 site near Bortnevo, north of Moscow, employing the "slanted-E" revetment style:

Another common site configuration features four launch positions arranged around a central raised berm for a mobile engagement radar. The size and shape of the launch positions, as well as the presence of protective revetments for the TELs, varies from site to site and nation to nation, but the overall layout remains relatively uniform. The site near Sevastopol depicted above is an example of such a configuration. All identifiable Chinese S-300P sites employ a variation on this layout.

Given that the S-300P SAM system is a mobile system, it is also quite common to find batteries deployed on former legacy SAM sites. As seen previously, many S-25 sites around Moscow are now home to S-300P batteries. Slovakia's S-300PMU battery resides on the grounds of a former S-125 site, and there is a Ukrainian S-300PMU battery and garrison positioned on a former S-200 complex near Sevastopol, to cite a few examples.

The following image depicts an S-300PM battery deployed on the grounds of a former S-75 site near Roschino, north of St. Petersburg. The Roschino site is slightly unusual insofar as there are S-300P-style revetments to the southwest that are apparently unused.

Despite the presence of common site configurations, there are numerous random layouts. The numerous site configurations probably stem from the fact that the S-300P is a mobile system able to be located nearly anywhere. Some sites feature numerous revetments designed for two TELs apiece, some feature larger revetments for four or more TELs, and some feature no revetments at all.

The lack of consistency on a large scale in the configuration of S-300P sites belies the importance of being able to identify the system based on the visible components. The S-300PT is relatively easy to identify given the unique appearance of the 5P85-1 launchers. Differentiating between an S-300PM and an S-300PM-1 seems more difficult from the outset, but is in fact not all that hard. The 5P85S/D TELs measure around 43 feet in length, while the 5P85T TELs measure around 47 feet in length, based on visible imagery. As the S-300PS had a service life of 20 years and was introduced in 1982, and many of them were modified to S-300PM standard, any sites with 43 meter TELs can be identified relatively accurately as S-300PM sites. Of course, export systems would be the S-300PMU, and export sites featuring the 47-foot semi trailer TELs would be S-300PMU-1s.


Russian S-300P sites display a number of identifiable deployment strategies. S-300P SAM systems are employed in defense of key industrial and military areas, as well as large population centers.

S-300PM and S-300PM-1 sites around Moscow typically employ the "slanted-E" site configuration, and most of them are based on the grounds of former S-25 SAM sites. Moscow defense sites all employ tower mounted engagement radars in conjunction with tower-mounted 76N6 radars. This provides a robust low-altitude target detection envelope around the capital city. Eight to twelve TELs are typically present at each site, with at least six TELs at each site being loaded with missiles and positioned in a launch revetment.

S-300P sites located along the periphery of Russia's Far East Military District, particularly near Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk, tend to feature mobile engagement radars and tower-mounted 76N6 radars. This is likely due to the fact that sites located along the periphery are typically positioned very near the water and therefore do not have substantial terrain for the engagement radar to contend with along potential threat ingress routes. A raised berm for the engagement radar is often more than sufficient to ensure the radar has a sufficient field of view with respect to any vegetation in the area. The single exception is the S-300PM site positioned to defend the Rybachiy SSBN base, featuring a tower-mounted engagement radar, likely due to the terrain constraints potentially interfering with the engagement radar being able to see out over the open ocean from where it is positioned. The Yelizovo and Petropavlovsk sites are positioned at a higher elevation than the Rybachiy site, providing them with a better field of view than the Rybachiy site.

S-300P sites on the Kola peninsula and around St. Petersburg feature tower-mounted engagement radars, likely due to the varied terrain in the areas where the SAM sites are positioned. Kola sites feature eight active TELs, with St. Petersburg sites featuring four active TELs, likely due to the greater strategic importance of the Kola peninsula and associated military facilities.

Interestingly, the Kaliningrad S-300P sites feature tower-mounted engagement radars at four sites and a mobile engagement radar at the fifth site. There are no major terrain constraints requiring use of the towers for the engagement radars. However, the Kaliningrad region is geographically separated from the rest of Russia, and is is possible that tower-mounted engagement radars are employed to provide an increased probability of low-altitude detection. Kaliningrad is also home to a Russian naval contingent, so perhaps the engagement radars are tower mounted at four of the sites to remove the potential of low-altitude clutter generated by the incoming and outgoing naval vessels. This doesn't seem to make complete sense, however, as the Baltiysk site nearest the harbor entrance features the mobile engagement radar.

The lack of S-300PM-1 batteries in areas identified as being of strategic importance, such as Petropavlovsk, Vladivostok and Kaliningrad, is likely due to the fact that the more sensitive systems are kept in areas where the presence of foreign ELINT assets is far less likely. There is, however, an S-300PM-1 battery deployed near Novorossiysk, The presence of an S-300PM-1 site in this area is likely due to the fact that it represents the sole identifiable active strategic SAM site in the area. It should also be noted that the S-300PM-1 systems are at most nearly a decade newer than the S-300PM systems. Ergo, it is likely that the areas considered to be the most strategically important were the first to receive the S-300PM-1. This would explain the high concentration around Moscow, and the presence on the Kola Peninsula. S-300PM-1s not being present on the Kamchatka Peninsula can be explained away by the fact that the Northern Fleet is the main combat arm of the Russian Navy. Petropavlovsk and Rybachiy also enjoy protection by a MiG-31 regiment, so the area is not necessarily at a loss.


There are five visible active S-300P sites inside of China at this moment. China apaprently has chosen to employ the S-300P systems to defend key population centers, relying on older HQ-2 SAM systems to defend smaller population centers and military facilities. Four of China's S-300P locations are S-300PMU-1 sites, with the fifth being home to an S-300PMU battery. China employs a relatively standard deployment strategy throughout its S-300P batteries. Four TELs are deployed around a central, mobile engagement radar vehicle positioned on a raised berm. There are four separate pads for the TELs, with two TELs positioned on each of two launch pads. Tower-mounted engagement radars are not employed, allowing the core system components to be rapidly repositioned. A 36D6 or 64N6 EW radar is colocated with each SAM battery, with at least one 64N6 being present in each deployment area either in a colocated or nearby position to provide long-range target detection.

The one major inconsistency in Chinese S-300P deployments is the presence of a tower-mounted 76N6 radar. The 76N6 is present at the Yutian S-300PMU site, along with both Shanghai S-300PMU-1 sites. The reasoning behind this strategy likely relates to potential threat ingress routes. The Shanghai S-300PMU-1 sites are positioned near the coastline and as such would be able to monitor the airspace offshore, potentially detecting inbound strike aircraft and missiles from Kadena AB, Okinawa, and southern Japan. Given the low-altitude detection function of the 76N6, it is plausible that the Shanghai sites are positioned to detect inbound, low-altitude missiles launched from naval vessels or submarines.

Why, then, would there be a disparity in the 76N6 deployment to the north? Beijing is much farther inland, and is also protected by the defenses of the Bo Hai gulf. Any potential threat ingressing from the east or south would have to penetrate a dense air defense network which also included interceptor aircraft and other SAM systems. Beijing is also borered to the north and west by mountainous terrain, making low-altitude detection less important as any inbound target from those directions would pop up into the coverage of the 64N6 EW radar sites positioned in the area.

The inconsistency, therefore, is the presence of the 76N6 at the Yutian S-300PMU site. The 120 kilometer range of the 76N6 does not give it enough range to reach offshore from the Yutian site. It is possible that the 76N6 was only purchased for use with the S-300PMU and therefore would not be found at any of the S-300PMU-1 sites, whose 30N6E1 radar does offer improved performance over the 30N6E employed by the S-300PMU. The answer may also lie in the condition of the Yutian 76N6. It is visible in a lowered position, potentially being prepared for transport.

However, the Yutian 76N6 may simply be lowered for maintenance, or may be a new arrival. In the latter case, it may be indicative of future 76N6 deployments at the northern S-300P sites to augment the already robust radar coverage of the systems. The Yutian site may also be a training unit, allowing crews to train on all of the system components. Lastly, the Yutian 76N6 may be positioned to aid in the detection of cruise missiles fired towards Beijing-area targets from submerged submarines that manage to penetrate the Bo Hai gulf's waters.


S-300P sites in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are primarily deployed to defend population centers, capitals, and in the case of the Ukraine military facilities. Most S-300PT facilities feature a standard twelve TEL complement, although there are some minor variations, as there are with the S-300PMU deployments.

Slovakia was not analyzed due to the presence of only a single identifiable S-300P battery. Likewise, Greece was not analyzed as S-300PMU-1 components are visible at two locations on Crete but they are not deployed.


The S-300P is a very capable strategic SAM system, and as such can provide very robust air defense over a large region of airspace. By employing a number of batteries positioned to provide overlapping areas of coverage, a nation can effectively create what amounts to an area of denied airspace. While the S-300P does feature multiple-target engagement capability, it is also wise to overlap coverage areas in order to reduce the effect of saturation by actual or false targets.

The following image depicts S-300P coverage provided by identified, active sites positioned around Moscow. The blue rings represent the associated 64N6 EW radars. Large red rings represent S-300PM-1 batteries, with small red rings representing S-300PM batteries. The S-300PM-1 has a 150 kilometer range, the S-300PM a 90 kilometer range, and the 64N6 a 300 kilometer range. The overlapping coverage areas and the number of batteries in place have effectively transformed the skies over Moscow into the most heavily defended airspace in the world.


Information regarding user nations and the types and numbers of identified sites can be found here: LINK


-Jane's Land Based Air Defense 2002-03
-Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, a definitive text edited by Pavel Podvig
-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth