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Russia begins delivery of S-400 missiles to China, sources say

Russian S-400 Triumf medium- and long-range surface-to-air missile systems ride through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has started delivering batteries of the S-400 Triumf advanced missile defense system to China as part of a 2014 agreement, sources close to the Russian military say.

"The implementation of the contract has begun, the first shipment has been sent to China," Russian media reported Thursday, citing an unnamed official.

According to the source, a control station, a radar station, energy and support equipment, spare parts, various tools and other elements of the S-400 system were included in the first shipment.

Neither technology transfer nor licensed production was agreed upon in the contract, the source noted.

Russia trained a group of Chinese military personnel to operate the S-400 system last year.

It took Russian Presidential Aide on Military Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin until November 2015 to confirm the contract. Head of Russia’s Rostec State Corporation Sergei Chemezov said back then that the Chinese army would not receive the system before 2018.

The contract made China the first foreign purchaser of the cutting-edge air defense system, followed by Turkey as the second buyer.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been personally monitoring progress on the deal. On September 12, 2017, Russia confirmed the nearly $2.5 billion deal with Ankara for two S-400 batteries.

Kozhin revealed late last year that they were negotiating a possible S-400 deal with Saudi Arabia as well. He said then that Moscow was hopeful to get a deal before the New Year.

Russia and Saudi Arabia first signed a contract for the delivery of one battery of the Russian-made system in March 2017, when Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was on a four-day trip to Moscow.

Russia is also in talks to sell the defense system to India, one of the main purchasers of Russian weapons.

The S-400 Triumf (with the NATO codename Growler) entered service in 2007 and is considered Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.

Capable of engaging targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km, the missile system can destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against land-based targets.

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