MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has delivered 15 batteries of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to China, Interfax news agency reported on Friday, under a contract analysts said could be worth as much as $2.25 billion.
China is a major buyer of Russian weapons, and the two countries say they are trying to forge a strategic partnership, though senior Russian officials are privately concerned about an increasingly assertive China.
Russia has delivered 15 S-300 batteries to China, Interfax news agency quoted Igor Ashurbeili, director general of Almaz Antei which makes the missiles, as saying.
“We have implemented a contract to deliver to China the newest system S-300,” Ashurbeili said. He gave no details about the value of the deal. A spokesman for the plant was not immediately available for comment.
In Russia’s armed forces, an S-300 battery normally consists of four truck-mounted installations, each with four missiles held in metal tubes.
Analysts said the contracts to deliver the S-300 to China were signed in the mid-2000s and that each battery usually costs about $120-$150 million. That indicates the value of the Chinese contract was about $1.80-$2.25 billion.
“The price for one S-300 battery varies between about $120 million and $150 million,” said Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head at the Moscow-based CAST defense think tank.
The S-300, known in the West as the SA-20, can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft. The missiles have a range of 150 km (90 miles) or more and travel at over two km per second.
Russian arms exports rose to a post-Soviet record of $8.5 billion last year, with Algeria, India and China accounting for two thirds of deliveries. Syria, Venezuela, Malaysia and Vietnam accounted for another 20 percent of deliveries.
Moscow has said it plans to fulfill a contract to supply the S-300, nicknamed “the favorite” in Russia, to Iran, unnerving Israel and the United States.
The possible sale to Tehran of the S-300, which could protect Iran’s nuclear facilities against air strikes, has become a sensitive issue in Russia’s relations with Israel.
Russia has a more advanced air defense system, known as the S-400 “Triumph,” and Ashurbeili said the country’s armed forces were expected to receive the third battery of these “any day from now.”
A senior Russian general said last year that Moscow was now developing a fifth-generation, surface-to-air missile, the S-500, which would be able to implement the tasks of both air and space defense.
Officials have said that the new system would be capable of engaging ballistic hypersonic targets flying at a speed of 5 km (3 miles) per second.
Editing by Diana Abdallah