Russia is assembling S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems to start shipments to Iran by next year, the Kremlin’s top official for the arms trade said.
Russia is also modernizing some parts of the systems and revising contract terms, including the pricing, Vladimir Kozhin, President Vladimir Putin’s aide on military-technical cooperation, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Putin ended a self-imposed embargo on supply of the S-300 in April after five years, prompting objections from the U.S. and Israel. The Russian leader said at the time that the transfer would help create a balance in the region. Iran said it expects to take delivery this year.
“The Iranians want them as soon as possible, and we are trying too,” Kozhin said. “There is activity to prepare new legal contracts, new conditions and thus prepare systems for delivery.”
Some of the weapons systems originally intended for sale to Iran were supplied to other clients, while some parts of other S-300s stored across Russia have undergone “serious modernization” as the years passed, Kozhin said.
All limitations on the transfer to Iran have been lifted and once “there is a contract, there will be deliveries,” Yan Novikov, chief of Almaz-Antey Corp., which produces the S-300 and other air-defense systems such as the BUK missile, told reporters, according to the Interfax newswire.
A BUK-1 missile downed the Malaysian Airlines MH17 passenger plane, killing all 298 on board, over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine last July, Interfax reported on Tuesday, citing Novikov, who said experts can’t say which country owned the complex that caused the disaster.
There is no talk of supplying the more sophisticated S-400 systems to Iran, according to Kozhin. These can be exported only to China, he said.
“There are certain thresholds beyond which no country can go,” said Kozhin about how far Russia is ready to go in the arms trade with China. “There is very reasonable balance. We cooperate very closely with China and they get whatever they want.”
Russia and China are in talks on jointly designing and producing new weapons, he said. In May, Putin said Russia needs to emphasize joint production, similar to its work with India.
Exports of military goods and technology from Russia came to more than $15.5 billion in 2014, and Russian companies signed new contracts for a total of $14 billion last year. The export order book is stable, at more than $50 billion, Putin said on May 25.
Russia’s outstanding dispute with France about two Mistral helicopter carriers will probably be resolved by the end of the European summer, Kozhin said. Russia wants to have all expenses related to production of the ships to be covered, he said.
“Money or ships,” Kozhin said. “Money means money. We do not lose a lot if we don’t get these ships.”