Russia’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to deploy advanced S-400 Triumph air defence missile systems in the country’s Southern Military District by the end of 2012, Southern Military District spokesman colonel Igor Gorbul has revealed.

Gorbul was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that the S-400 systems will replace the existing S-300 PM systems, and are being fielded as part of the district’s extensive modernisation programme.

The district has so far received 16 units of military equipment, including the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) combined short-range gun and missile air defence systems, according to the spokesman.

An additional 60 anti-aircraft and tactical radio communication systems are also expected to be deployed by the end of 2012, as part of the district’s rearmament plans.

Developed by design bureau Almaz, the S-400 Triumph is a long to medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, designed to intercept a wide range of ground-based and airborne targets, such as stealth aircraft, strategic carriers and cruise and ballistic missiles.

Code named the SA-21 Growler, the S-400 system is an upgrade of the S-300 missile system, and features three different missiles, including the extremely long-range 40N6, 48N6 long-range, and a 9M96 medium-range missile.

Russia currently has four operational S-400 regiments, including two in the Moscow region, one in the Baltic Fleet and one in the Eastern Military District.

A total of 56 battalions are expected to be armed with S-400 systems by 2020.

The MoD currently has no export plans for the S-400 systems, which will only be used by the Russian Armed Forces to replace S-300 systems.