Even as the Russian Ministry of Defense moves forward with the development of the S-500 anti-missile platform, it has continued to deploy the current generation of systems to units across its borders. This week the Russian military’s Eastern Military District announced that the latest S-300V4 air defense missile system was deployed for active combat duty on the Kuril Islands, a volcanic archipelago that separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean.
“Units of the S-300V4 missile defense system entered combat duty on an air defense mission on the Kuril Islands,” said a statement from the Eastern Military District, according to a report from Tass.
Col. Gen. and the Hero of Russia Gennady Zhidko, Commander of the Eastern Military District’s forces, reportedly personally checked on the readiness of the air defense missile system to enter combat duty. Zhidko, who previously served as deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, said he highly appreciated the coordinated work of units and forces on duty during the drills when a signal was received on Russia’s air border violation.
The S-300V4 is the Russian military’s advanced, highly mobile air defense missile system that was developed to protect vital military and administrative facilities and groupings of forces against strikes from ballistic and aerodynamic air attack weapons. This is the fourth version of the upgraded S-300V battlefield anti-aircraft missile system, and it is the first system in the world capable of simultaneously engaging cruise missiles, aircraft and ballistic targets. It also contains a specialized private sector radar for countering areas affected by interference. It is reportedly capable of targeting AWACS aircraft at very long distances.
Russia had previously deployed the S-300V4 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria in 2016 to expand control of the airspace in the eastern part of the country and to prevent attacks on the Khmeimim airfield and the supply base at the port of Tartus.
Showdown Over the Kuril Islands
Russia’s deployment of the S-300V4 to the Kuril Islands comes just a month after it sent Su-27 aircraft, S-400 anti-missile systems and T-72B3 main battle tanks (MBTs) to the disputed territories.
Since the end of the Second World War seventy-five years ago, the Kuril Islands have remained under Russian administration even despite Japanese claims for the four southernmost (including two largest) of the islands. Known as the South Kurils by the Russians and the Northern Territories to the Japanese, these islands were captured by the Soviet Red Army in late August and early September 1945 and annexed to the Soviet Union.
The status of the islands has deepened the rift in relations between Moscow and Tokyo. In late October, the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced plans to finalize the talks on the Kuril Islands, which called for comprehensive development of relations with Russia, including the signing of a peace agreement to end the Second World War.
Despite those peace feelers from Tokyo it seems Moscow has other plans—as noted by the deployment of even more military hardware to the remote island chain.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.