Daily Archives: April 5, 2013

What’s It Cost?

S-400

S-400

A reader recently asked:

What’s the cost of one division of the S-400 for Russia and for foreign customers?

Let’s call it a battalion (дивизион).  We’ll start with exports (for which there is actually data).  And we proceed from what was paid for the S-300.

Russia’s planned sale of the S-300PMU1 to Iran reportedly involved the transfer of five “battalion sets” for $800 million.  Some sources said as much as $1-1.2 billion.   

Let’s guess the “battalion set” has three firing batteries, with two launchers per, for a total of 30 TELs, 120+ missiles, and all associated radars, fire control systems, and vehicles.

If $800 million is accurate, the price for one battalion was $160 million.  The price for one S-400 system, four missiles on a TEL, was roughly $27 million.

This isn’t unlike what the Chinese paid for the S-300 in the 1990s and 2000s.  According to Sinodefence.com, they bought battalions for between $25 and $60 million at different times under different contracts.

That done, we make the leap from the S-300 price to the S-400 price.

A couple years ago, Vedomosti drew the scarcely precise conclusion that the price of the S-400 will double the S-300’s price (and the S-500 double the S-400’s). 

So perhaps a “battalion set” or a battalion of the S-400 will go for $320 million.  That would be one full-up launch vehicle for $40-50 million.

The only other shred of information is the widely-reported Financial Times story saying, if the Russians added the S-400 to a $2 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the price of the sale would climb to $7 billion.  But lots of Russian reports say Moscow won’t be selling the S-400 abroad soon.  The military obviously hopes that’s true, so it can get first.

But not every customer is Iranian, not every one will have to pay a premium price, and not every customer is foreign.

Which brings the trickier question of what Russia’s Defense Ministry has to pay.  It’s simply impossible to guess.

Certainly a lot less than buyers abroad.  The military’s bought some S-400 systems so there is a going price.  OAO Concern PVO Almaz-Antey’s costs are a big question as is the level of profit the government is willing to tolerate.  

The government owns Almaz-Antey, so one part of government is selling to another.  It’s a prime example of angst over GOZ “price formation” in recent years.  There was a similar big-ticket dustup over submarine prices with Sevmash.  It’s something of a Mexican standoff.  The buyer doesn’t have other supplier alternatives.  And the seller may not be allowed to sell elsewhere. 

The Defense Ministry, the government don’t want to pay a lot and have the power to refuse and yet still receive goods.  The question is how many.  That’s ECON 101, friends.

If those buyers set their price below equilibrium, Almaz-Antey will provide a lower than desired quantity more slowly than the buyers want.   And Almaz might have other buyers as an option, an advantage Sevmash lacks.  So “price formation” for the S-400 is all about agreement on Almaz’s costs and an acceptable level of profit.  That agreement is apparently not smoothly worked out yet.