Russia’s S-400 is the “best all-round missile defense system,” US intelligence firm Stratfor said in a new report, but it’s severely limited if it works on its own.
Russia began delivering the S-400 surface-to-air system to Turkey last week, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling it “the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country. The United States has opposed the purchase of Russian systems by its NATO ally and is said to have prepared sanctions against Turkey this week.
In its report released on Friday, Stratfor said Turkey was seeking to close a “critical capability gap” for ballistic missile defense with the purchase of the S-400. The intelligence firm’s assessment places Turkey’s use of the S-400 above “obsolete” systems in Syria, but below well-integrated systems deployed in Russia and China.
Here is an overview of Stratfor Evaluation strengths and limitations of the S-400:
— The S-400 has sophisticated sensors, extended range and the ability to strike targets such as aircraft and, to a lesser extent, cruise and ballistic missiles.
— Flexible targeting capabilities allow the S-400 to defend against a variety of threats and attacks.
— Anti-stealth capabilities give the S-400 the potential to shoot down the enemy’s most advanced combat aircraft. Its long range allows the system to target tankers and AWACS, or airborne early warning and control aircraft.
— “The Russian S-400 is arguably one of the best complete strategic SAM systems in service today.”
— “[I]If an S-400 battalion is acting in isolation or not supported by other modern air defenses, it probably does not have enough missiles to withstand a determined assault.
— An S-400 battalion of eight launchers, each armed with four missiles, can cause serious damage only in the event of a limited enemy attack. They remain vulnerable to ranged missile attacks.
— S-400 sensors can be blinded by geographic features such as mountainous terrain, making low-flying cruise missiles more effective against the system than high-flying targets.
– “Ultimately, a battery or even an isolated S-400 battalion … can even be destroyed without [it] destroy a single enemy aircraft.
Here’s what the experts have to say:
– Russian military expert Viktor Litovkin acknowledged the S-400’s vulnerabilities but dismissed claims it could miss a target, calling it “amateur talk”.
“It can’t hit submarines or tanks, but it doesn’t have to. You need to understand that it is not alone in the field, it always goes hand in hand with other air defense systems,” Litovkin told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview.
– Konstantin Sokolov, a geopolitical expert at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, told the Moscow Times that the delivery of the missile system marks “a critical turning point in Russian-Turkish and Turkish-NATO relations.”
“The purchase of arms – this is long-term cooperation and long-term policy – is a key moment because it shows that Turkey has turned to Russia,” Sokolov told the Moscow Times.
“As a former air defense officer, I can confirm that the [S-400] is excellent both in combat and training conditions, ”said Sokolov.