Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image credits: Shutterstock
The S400 Triumph is an air defence missile system developed by the Almaz Central Design Bureau of Russia and manufactured by the Fakel Machine-Building Design Bureau. This air defence missile system entered service in 2007. It is the successor to the S300P and S200 air defence systems of the Russian Army. The S400 was developed as an upgrade from the S300P series of surface to air missile systems (SAMS). The S400 was combat-ready in August 2007. The Russians have 4 S400 regiments guarding the national airspace.
Many key players like Saudi Arabia and Belarus (close Moscow partner) have shown interest in the S400 system. As of 2019, Turkey received the delivery of the S400 system even after being a NATO member and getting much ire from the USA. This shows the worsening of relations between the USA and Turkey. 2 regiments of the S400 system were delivered to the Chinese Army in 2019. In October 2018, Rosoboronexport signed a contract with India to provide the S-400 missile system. India will receive delivery of the S400 system in late 2021. Sanction threats earlier from the USA did not put the deal down from happening between Russia and India for the S400 system.
The USA strategically cannot afford to upset the Indians. India will play a huge role in American containment of rising superpower China and India is also important for the American defence sector. India got missiles and bombs amid the LAC standoff with China. The S400 Triumph system delivery timing looks calculated on the Russians’ part so as not to raise eyes in Beijing. S400, along with the Pantsir missile system, is a two-layered defence system. A separate independent 42S6 Morpheus defence system is also being developed to protect the S400 triumph from threats at terminal phases. This will be a short-range missile defence system.
S400 TECHNOLOGY AND FEATURES
The S400 system has an integrated multifunction radar, autonomous detection, targeting, anti-aircraft, launchers and command and control system, which gives it an industrial level edge against the other air defence systems. It is also capable of firing three types of missiles, creating a layered defence approach. It is also mobile, and its launch vehicle is the SP85TE2 launcher based on the BAZ-64022 (6X6) tractor. Its Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle can carry up to 4 launch tubes holding many types of missiles. S400 can engage all types of aerial targets, be it manned or unmanned, ballistic, and cruise missiles, too, within the range of 400km at an altitude of 30km. This makes the whole system holistic in approach and future-ready. This system has the capacity of targeting up to 36 hostiles at a time.
This system can be deployed within 5 minutes and is twice as effective as its predecessor. The missiles used for the S400 system are of 4 types - the first is 48N6DM. With a powerful propulsion system. It has a range of 250km. The second is the 40N6 with a 400km range. It can be used against high-value targets. Others are 9M96E and 9M96E2, with a medium range of 120km. These are designed of direct impact on fast-moving targets like fighter jets. The targeting diversity of the S400 triumph is a trophy for this system and shows why big powers have a keen interest in it.
The 55K6E command and control of this system are based on the Ural-532301 mobile command post vehicle. This mobile is equipped with modern LCD consoles for monitoring and processing air space surveillance data. This system coordinates other batteries, tracks the threat and does surveillance. The radar used is 92N6E9 (NATO CODENAMED: GRAVESTONE) is the fire control and tracking radar. The 96L6 Cheese Board 3D surveillance and tracking radar is optionally carried by the same vehicle when the S-400 battery is deployed autonomously. The other radar - 91N6E Big Bird acquisition and battle management radar can detect and track aircraft, rotorcraft, guided missiles, drones and rockets within a distance of 600km and track up to 300 targets. This all makes the S400 a goliath in the missile defence arena.
Image credits: BBC
THE GRANDEUR OF S400 TRIUMPH
The S400 system, when face to face with the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defence) of the USA, far outweighs it. S400 has proved its metal in tests and use. The increasing demand for S400 and its greater use shows that it has been able to outperform the best of the best in the industry. S400’s speed and range have raised eyebrows in the Pentagon. It is believed that S400 can take down the mighty F series fighter jets - F16s and other fourth-generation Eurofighter or Rafale, which doesn’t go well with the Americans. In the military world, one thing is clear - the S400 is a powerful system, but its capabilities may vary from nation to nation. S400 may be a significant weapon, but its usefulness and effectiveness may vary from target to target. Also, in the case of the Indian army - their target and use of the S400 system are mainly driven by the J series fighter jets and ballistic missiles of China, along with Pakistan’s F16s and short-range missiles.
The radar capabilities and speedy reaction and tracing of the S400 system give it an advantage over the Chinese jets. Likewise, China’s target is the Rafale fighter jets used by the Indians. Rafales, like the Eurofighters, are vulnerable to the S400 triumph. For the Indians, S400 is a much-needed weapon, it gives them control over the potential two-front conflict, and they can understand the Chinese too as they own the S400 system. This S400 ownership with both the Indians and the Chinese also establishes a military balance in the region. While the fighter’s stealth technology grows, what also grows is the radar and speed capacity of the SAMs like the S400. This is a neck to neck fight, and as of now, winners are divided among the different areas. The grandeur of S4OO triumph as a grand geopolitical weapon and bragging message does remain intact, along with its on the ground and off ground capabilities to demolish the enemy. The Russian defence technology never disappoints the bearer.
BY HARSH SURI
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA