A “highly-placed” Navy source has told RIA Novosti that S-400 / Triumf surface-to-air missile systems are arriving in the Baltic Fleet. The source claims fleet air defense personnel are going to Ashuluk for training.
The news agency said a “highly-placed Baltic Fleet staff representative” confirmed announcements from several media outlets about the fleet receiving two S-400 battalions before the end of 2011.
Perhaps some healthy skepticism is in order.
The S-400 isn’t exactly bursting out the factory gates. A second S-400 regiment hasn’t appeared at Dmitrov, and a third has already been promised for Moscow’s outskirts.
There’s also a little matter of earlier spurious reports about where the S-400 would appear. Recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s remark that it was deployed in the Far East in 2009. Since then, there was talk of using it to defend the Kurils or Kamchatka, but Air Forces generals have spoken of the system strictly in terms of protecting Russia’s “central administrative and industrial zones,” i.e. Moscow and adjacent oblasts.
Maybe it would make some sense to protect the country’s northwestern approaches from ever-dangerous Germans, Swedes, Finns, etc. But it’s not really logical to do so until Moscow’s air defenses are modernized.
And it’s certainly not logical (from a bureaucratic viewpoint) for the VVS or VKO Troops (VVKO?) to let these precious new systems slip from their hands into the Navy’s control. A second service operator at this point would complicate training and maintenance.
Maybe it’s another tactic for negotiating with the U.S. over missile defense in Eastern Europe (like deploying Iskander SSMs in Kaliningrad).
For its part, Interfaks (according to TsAMTO) reported the Navy S-400s would be placed in Russia’s Baltic exclave.
At any rate, there would seem to be few persuasive arguments and little sense behind a deployment of the S-400 in the Baltic Fleet any time soon.