Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System: Superior Weapon Crucial to Deterrence
Andrei AKULOV | 20.04.2016 | OPINION

Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System: Superior Weapon Crucial to Deterrence

The Triumph S-400 is a new generation of air defense and theater anti-missile weapon developed by the Russian Almaz-Antey Central Design Bureau.

Last December, the Triumph was deployed at the Hmeymim airbase near the port city of Latakia to protect the Russian Aerospace Forces operating in Syria. The deployment took place as a response to the downing of a Russian SU-24 jet by Turkey. Based in Latakia, the S-400's surface-to-air missiles could strike targets in an arc that takes in much of Israel, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and a large part of Turkey beyond the Syrian border.

The system is currently deployed across many Russian military districts, including Kaliningrad.

The S-400 (NATO designation SA-21 Growler) is an upgrade of the S-300 PMU family. The system was officially accepted for service in 2007.

The Triumph integrates multifunctional radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missiles, launchers and command and control centre. It is capable of firing three types of missiles (with two modifications of 9M missile) to cover its entire performance envelope. The missiles have the following operational ranges: 400 km (40N6), 250 km (48N6), 120 km (9M96E2) and 40 km (9M96 E).

The system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, ballistic (range up to 3500 km) and cruise missiles within the range of 400km at an altitude of up to 30 km with a maximum speed of 4,800 meters per second. A successful test at a range of 400 km (250 mi) was conducted in April 2015.

Even US stealth aircraft like F-22 Raptor, F-35 and B-2 Spirit bomber could be challenged if there were enough S-400 batteries operating as part of an integrated air defense network.

Target detection distance is 600 km. The panoramic radar detection system (91N6E) is protected against jamming. The S-400 can track 300 targets simultaneously and engage thirty-six of them. It utilizes an active electronically scanned array. All-purpose maximum radial velocity is 4.8 km per second (17,000 km/h; 11,000 mph; Mach 14). The system’s response time is less than 10 seconds.

The 55K6E command and control system of the S-400 Triumph is mounted on the Ural-532301 mobile command post vehicle. The command post is equipped with liquid crystal display consoles to process the air space surveillance data of the individual batteries. It controls and monitors long-range surveillance radar, tracks and prioritizes aerial threats and coordinates operations with other batteries. The entire system is automatically operated (all battalions and all external resources including passive). The maximum distance between the command center and the battalion 98ZH6E with the use of retransmitters is up to 100 km. It can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of other services, including the Navy. It’s especially important for coordination of activities with Russia’s naval vessels anchored in Tartus, Syria.

The S-400 air defense system stands out for its mobility.

The system can move on roads (60 km/h) and off road at speeds up to 25 km/h. It can take a combat ready position on any ground within 5 minutes.

«If they’re all over every square inch of the country, then it doesn’t matter what you put out there – it’s going to be a challenge», said a senior Air Force official with extensive stealth experience.

On 1 March 2016, Acting Commander of the 14th Air Force and Air Defense Army, Major General Vladimir Korytkov, said that six S-400 units had been deployed in Russia’s Novosibirsk region.

As of late 2015, a total of eleven Russian missile regiments (one regiment includes 64 launchers) were armed with S-400, and by the end of 2016 their number is expected to increase to sixteen.

The S-400 enjoys a big success on foreign markets.

India is set to buy five S-400 systems from Russia.

New Delhi is the second foreign customer for the powerful missile system after Beijing, which is buying six S-400 batteries. The deliveries of S-400 air defense systems to China under this contract may begin in the first quarter of 2017.

The list of potential operators includes Armenia, Belarus, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

«Simply stated, of all the surface-to-air threats being faced by coalition airpower over Syria, the Russian S-400 SAM, known as the 'Triumph' at home and better known to NATO as the SA-21 «Growler», is the most capable and lethal long-range air defense missile system on the planet», writes Scott Wolff, an experienced flyer, an accomplished writer and the host, editor and contributor to FighterSweep.

The outstanding performance makes the S-400 a highly potent and accurate weapon that can tip the balance of power in any war theatre.

One does not have to be a military expert to know that military operations on land, at sea and in the air are impossible without control of the skies. This is the single most important factor in deciding the outcome of a modern war. As Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery said, «If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war and we lose it quickly».

Hardly will anyone put into doubt the fact that today Russia is a world leader in the development and production of air defense systems. It has unique technology and expertise to ensure its leading position and great prospects. The Russian air defense capability denies a potential enemy air superiority. This is a reliable shield to protect the country and serve as a deterrence against an aggression. The superior technology also offers lucrative deals for the countries ready to purchase the best the world has to offer. 

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