The Russian-made S-400 Triumf air defence system (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) is currently much talked about air defence system after its deployment in Syria.
The S-400 Triumf system can fire several interceptor missiles capable of intercepting low altitude to high altitude missile, aircraft, ballistic missile and UAV. The S-400 supports four different missiles – the very long range 40N6E-series (400 km), the long-range 48N6 (250 km), the 9M96E2 (120 km) and the short-range 9M96E (40 km). The missile is reportedly capable of exo-atmospheric interception of intermediate-range ballistic missile warheads in their terminal phase.
The main components of S-400 system are the 92N6E “Gravestone” fire control radar, command and control vehicles, transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) and the interceptor missiles. The S-400 uses multiple types of missiles and integrate with various systems including older radars designed for later versions of the S-300 system. The S-400 is also guarded by medium-range air defence system like Buk surface-to-air missile system.
The Russian military has fielded the air defence system and recently been exported to China. Turkey, a NATO member, placed an order for S-400 system from Rusia. Saudi Arabia is reportedly in discussion with Russia to supply S-400 to their respective air force. India placed an order to procure five batteries of S-400 for Indian Airforce.
Recently, some defence observers and journalists have been in a discussion about defeating such a complex air defence system like the S-400 Triumf. The S-400 Triumf’s range and early warning systems are in favour of the S-400. However, the Western Air Force have the means and capability to defeat Russian-made early warning radar and electronics. The Russian is yet to master jamming resistance solid-state and Gallium Nitride-based electronic and radar systems which the Western Air Force and Navy currently fielded in various battle-group.
The jammer on the EA-18G Growler is the ALQ227, a multi-band jammer effective at standoff ranges and within the engagement range of HARM anti-radiation missile. This chart shows the kind of burnthrough you get.
The typical radar for an S-400 is the S-band 91N6E. Here is a typical burnthrough chart:
The primary means of defeating such an air defence system is to use the EA-18 Growler. The EA-18G Growler is an incredibly capable and critical weapon system which provide electronic attack capability to the US and Australian Airforce. The EA-18 is capable of disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications. The EA-18’s ability to locate, record, playback and digitally jam enemy communications over a broad frequency range using its ALQ-227 Communications Countermeasures Set. America’s premier electronic attack aircraft, the EA-18G Growler, as an antidote to first class air defence systems, and particularly the S-400.
Secondary method is Rafael EW suites. A video released by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel late September 2018 shows that the company’s electronic warfare (EW) systems could be utilized to jam the radars of the S-400 air defence system.
The third means of defeating the S-400 is to deploy the F-35 stealth fighter. The US Air Force and allies maintain the most advanced stealth fighter jet currently available in the market, the F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 advanced stealth and built-in electronic warfare capabilities enable unprecedented battlefield access without the need for dedicated electronic attack aircraft support.
It (F-35) was designed to be America’s “premier surface-to-air missile killer and is uniquely equipped for this mission with cutting-edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques and advanced target recognition,” according to Mark Shackelford, acquisition deputy to the assistant secretary of the US Air Force.
The next generation AN/ASQ-239 system protects the F-35 with advanced technology with maximum situational awareness, helping to identify, monitor, analyze, and respond to potential threats. The AN/ASQ-239 system makes the F-35, an airborne hacker to identify and defect ground-based military early warning radar.
The F-35 is equipped with offensive and defensive electronic warfare options for the pilot and aircraft, the AN/ASQ-239 system suite provides fully integrated radar warning, 360-degree view of the battlespace, targeting support, and self-protection, to detect and defeat and jam surface and airborne threats.
The Israeli Air Force use of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Syria prove that the stealth fighter jet can go harms way to defeat advanced air defence system such as Syrian Army’s S-300, a variant of S-400 air defence system.
What this picture says to me is that the S-400 was either unable to get a firing solution, or the Russian commanders are grossly incompetent (or the Russians knew about the strike well in advance and are, gasp, lying). It’s also possible that the Russians actually didn’t see the strike occurring (either due to EW or the S-400 radar failing to detect it) and were taken entirely by surprise when the Israelis contacted them with the missiles 1 minute (maybe 15km or less) out from the targets.
The fact that the Syrians didn’t fire during the strike either suggests to me that F-35’s EW attacks disabled both Syrian and Russian systems AKA S-400.
The NATO allies also pose sophisticated radar and terrain locating systems which provide enhanced radar image resolution, targeting and tracking range through its APG-79, RBE2, Raven ES-05 and Captor-E Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system.
The NATO Air Force poses various advanced electronic warfare suites such as SPECTRA and Sirius SIGINT. The SPECTRA integrated electronic warfare suite provides long-range detection, identification and accurate localisation of infrared, electromagnetic and laser threats. The Sirius SIGINT provides Real-time SIGINT situational awareness picture in modern, sophisticated and dense signal environment.
The NATO countries also pose advanced anti-radiation mission missile– Spice 250, AS-37 Martel, MALD-J, JSOW and AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) that can eliminate modern threats such as stationary and mobile air defence system.
MBDA’s MARTE ER includes a home-on-jam capability wherein the receiver component of their active radar homing is used to home in on enemy radar, ECM or communications. This makes MARTE missiles significantly harder to defeat with ECM and distraction countermeasures, and makes the use of semi-active missiles against MARTE ER ineffective. The navy ships equipped with S-400 can be defeated by MARTE ER.
The combination of advanced EW suites, advanced missiles and stealth fighter jet can engage in complex SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) mission to defeat modern air defence systems are greatly simplifying a complex solution to a very complex problem—the S-400 Triumf.
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