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Russian S-400 Triumf, Air Defense System: Invincible or not

The S-400 Triumf (Russian:  C-400) is a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. NATO called it the SA-21 Growler. It is one of the most advanced long-range air defense systems in the world. 

The S-400 Triumf air defense system is developed by Russian Almaz Central Design Bureau. It is a mobile-based air defense system, so it can be easily moved from one place to another. The advanced S-400 air defense missile system has been operational with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007.

The S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system was described as ‘one of the best and most advanced’ air defense systems by The Economist and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

Characteristics of S-400:

The S-400 Triumf is designed to engage jamming aircraft, radar detection and control aircraft, strategic and tactical aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, operational-tactical ballistic missiles, medium-range ballistic missiles, hypersonic targets, and other modern and advanced air attack weapons. 

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The high degree of automation of all stages of combat work made it possible to significantly reduce the maintenance personnel of the S-400 SAM system. The principles of construction and the ramified communication system of the four hundred facilities make it possible to integrate it into various levels of command not only of the Air Force but also of other branches of the armed forces. According to the Russian website Rocket Technology

S-400 Triumf air defense system
S-400 Triumf air defense system. Image courtesy Army Technology
S-400 Triumph Air Defence Missile System – Army Technology (army-technology.com)

The S-400 air defense system is designed in such a way to make it possible to integrate it into existing and future control systems of air defense groupings not only of the Air Force but also with military air defenses, forces, and air defense systems of the Navy. 

The scientific, technical, and technological breakthroughs achieved during the development of the Triumf air defense system. The SAM defense system provides a real opportunity for the transition to the development and production of a new class of weapons, integrated information, and fire aircraft and anti-aircraft missile systems. 

Development History:

The development of the S-400 SAM system began in the late 1980s. The successful tests of S-400 Triumf were conducted In February 1999. The chief engineer of the project was Dr. Alexander Lemanskiy of Almaz-Antey (the Russian state-owned arms industry). Basically, the S-400 is the upgraded version of the S-300 air defense system. In 2007 the S-400 air defense missile system entered service with Russian armed forces. 

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Technical Details:

The S-400 air defense system battery consists of four transporter erector launchers (TELs) with four large launch tubes. Other components include the long-range radar system and the command vehicle. The two S-400 batteries make up the battalion/division. The regular battalion has at least eight launchers with 32 missiles. 

The components of S-400 includes; 

1. Control 30K6E which includes command post 55K6E and radar detection 91N6E

2. Anti-aircraft missile systems which include multi-function control radar 92N2E, launchers, and anti-aircraft missiles. 

3. All-altitude radar 96L6E with mobile tower 30V6M for antenna post 92N6E

The maximum speed of S-400 missiles to engage any target is Mach 15 (which is 5 kilometers per second). The overall system’s response time is 9-10 seconds. The S-400 air defense system vehicles can move on roads at the speed of 60 km/h. The whole system can be deployed from the march in just 5-10 minutes. The operational service life of ground vehicles of the S-400 air defense system is 20 years. 

S-400 Price:

The total unit cost for the S-400 battalion/division (includes eight launchers, long-range radar system, and missiles) is about $200 million. According to Pravda.ru, the Russian news agency. 

Missiles used in S-400 Triumf:

One launcher of S-400 can carry 4 ultra-long-range missiles (up to 400 km). The S-400 uses six different types of anti-aircraft guided missiles. Three types already used in the S-300 family of air defense systems while three new types of missiles, which are just developed for the S-400.

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The S-400 Missiles includes;

40N6E have a range of up to 400 km, can hit targets in near space at an altitude of up to 185 km. It can be guided through semi-active or active radar homing. The missile is designed to hit targets at ultra long-ranges such as to destroy AWACS aircraft, air command posts, electronic warfare aircraft, strategic bombers, and ballistic targets with a maximum speed of about 3.5 Mach. 

48N6E3/48N6DM have a range of up to 250 km. It can hit targets at an altitude of 60 km. The missile is guided through semi-active radar homing. The maximum speed of the missile is about Mach 5.9. 

48N6E2 has a maximum range of 200 km. It can be guided through semi-active radar homing. Have the maximum speed of Mach 5.9.

9M96E2 can hit its target at a maximum range of 120 km. The maximum altitude of hitting targets is 30 km. It is guided through active radar homing. It is also featured as a hypersonic missile. According to data available, the missile can fly at the speed of Mach 15 (which is five kilometers per second). The missile can hit targets as low as 5 meters. The missile is optimized to engage precision weapons, cruise missiles, ballistic targets, and stealth aircraft. The probability of the missile to hit specific targets, not less than 0.9 for manned targets and 0.8 for unmanned targets. The missile is controlled in flight using an onboard inertial navigation system (INS). The ground base radar feeds the information about the targets i.e its coordinates into the on-board navigation system before launch and corrected during the flight over the radio link. 

9M96E has a range of about 40 km. It can engage its target at an altitude of 20km with a maximum speed of Mach 2.6. It is guided through active radar homing. 

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) capabilities of the S-400 SAM system are near the maximum allowed under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty or ABMT). The treaty was signed between the US and the Soviet Union in 1972, on the limitation of Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems used in defending areas against ballistic missiles delivered nuclear weapons. 

Radar used in the S-400 SAM system:

The S-400 air defense system uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. It uses radar of different ranges and functions. 

S-400 Triumf air defense system radar
S-400 Triumf air defense system radar. Image courtesy Army Technology
S-400 Triumph Air Defence Missile System – Army Technology (army-technology.com)

The 91N6E is a radar detection system used by S-400. It has a maximum range of about 600 km. It also provides protection against jamming. It operates in a circular view, three-dimensional mode. The radar has an important advantage in comparison with other ground-based radars due to its stand-by and combat modes. It is also equipped with two-dimensional beam scanning. 

The 92N6E is a multifunctional radar that has a maximum range of 400 km. It can simultaneously track up to 100 targets and track 6 targets with accuracy. It also provides the functionality of engaging any target with two missiles, which provides a high probability of hitting that target. 

The Protivnik-GE is Ultra High Frequency (UHF) anti-stealth radar. It has a range of about 400 km. 

The 96L6E is another radar used with S-400. It has a maximum detection range of 300 km. It is an all-altitude radar detector. It is designed to detect and measure the coordinates of the target. It can detect targets at high, medium, low, and ultra-low altitudes. 

The airborne radar patrol and guidance system (AK RLDN) is used as an additional source of information for the Triumf air defense system. The AK RLDN carries out reconnaissance of the air enemy to support combat operations of fighter aircraft and long-range air defense systems. The use of airborne radar has increased survivability compared to ground-based radars because it is used to build up and quickly restore the radar field. 

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The airborne radar system AK RLDN includes the A50 complex and its modernized version A50U with a radio-technical complex (RTK) of the coherent type ‘Shmel-M’. The all-around antenna system, installed above the fuselage of the ll-76 aircraft, makes it possible to detect air objects with high resolution in a wide range of flight altitudes, control fighters, and exchange combat information with them. The Russian website Rocket Technology said in a report. 

Buyers of S-400:

China is the first buyer of the advanced S-400 air defense system. While India and Turkey have also signed the purchase agreement with the Kremlin. 

There are at least 13 more countries that have expressed interest in buying the S-400 Triumf system. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Vietnam, and Iraq. 

Analysis:

After analyzing the reports and information available about the S-400 air defense system, we can say that it is one of the best air defense systems available. But yet it has to prove its capabilities in real combat conditions. It fulfills the needs of any modern air defense that countries now require from a security point of view. 

Many countries are interested in this system because of its capabilities. One main reason for countries to buy S-400 is that the competitor systems like THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System) by Lockheed Martin and Patriot by Raytheon are either very expensive or the USA have tight military export restrictions to use these air defense systems. Or those systems have very high maintenance costs as compared to the S-400 air defense system.

Sources:

  1. published in Wikipedia
  2. published in The Diplomat
  3. Pravada.ru
  4. Rocket Technology