Vulnerabilities of Almaz-Antay S-400 Triumf (SA-21)

The S-400 Triumf -NATO calls it SA-21 Growler is a long-range surface-to-air missile (MLR SAM) system developed by Russia’s Almaz-Antay. The S-400 is an upgrade of the S-300 series of missile systems put in place for the defence of Moscow.

How S-400 Works

  1. Long-range surveillance radar tracks objects and relays information to command vehicle, which assesses potential targets
  2. Target is identified and command vehicle orders missile launch
  3. Launch data are sent to the best placed launch vehicle and it releases surface-to-air missiles
  4. Engagement radar helps guide missiles towards target

Can it be compared with American THAAD?

No. Although various internet sources compare S-400 with American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system though both are different weapon systems- designed and build for different purpose and non-comparable. The S-400 system is believed to have a larger range—designed and built to intercept ballistic missile, aircraft and cruise missile than the American-made THAAD missile system which designed and built to  interest ballistic missile in the exoatmosphere and is estimated to cost significantly less.

Read More Rafael SKY SHIELD – Airborne Support Jammer

Comparing with S-300

In comparison to its predecessor, the S-300, the S-400 air defense system features an improved radar system and updated software; it can purportedly fire four new types of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles in addition to the S-300’s 48N6E, a vertical tube launched, solid fuel, single stage SAM with an estimated range of 150 kilometers (93 miles), and the improved 48N6E2 missile with a reported range of 195 kilometers (121 miles).

One big misconception of S-400 Triumf is that S-400 detects and engage stealthy objects 400KM away is incorrect. S-400 can detect airborne tankers and AWEC 400KM away but a 4th gen fighter jet and ballistic missiles within 300KM ranges.

S-400 detects stealthy object below 76KM range and engagement capability is under 40KM.

Read More Defeating the S-400 Triumf is not rocket science but SEAD science

Systems Composition

The missile system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre. It can provide a layered defence as it is capable of firing three types of missiles.

  • Controls 30K6E in the composition – point of combat control (PBU) 55K6E, radar complex (RLK) 91N6E;
  • Up to 6 anti-aircraft missile systems 98ZH6E, each consisting of a multifunctional radar (MRLS) 92N6E,
  • Up to 12 transport launchers (TPU) of the type 5P85CE2, 5P85TE2 with the possibility of placement on each 4-ZUR;
  • Ammunition of anti-aircraft guided missiles;
  • The complex of means of technical support of the system 30TS6E.

A S-400 regiment is divided up into two battalions (also called divisions in the Russian military), which in turn are split into two batteries. A battery can consist of up to 12 transporter erector launchers (TELs), although 4 to 8 TELs per unit are more common. In addition to the TELs, each battery includes a target acquisition and engagement (fire control) radar systems and a command post, as well as an additional fire control radar system.

A road-mobile S-400 battery can deploy within five to ten minutes and engage up to 36 targets simultaneously. 


The S-400’s missiles are capable of targeting enemy aircraft, drones and cruise and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 400 km.

S 400 SAM system has 4 missile variants.

  1. 400 km (40N6 missile- The 40N6 missile has an estimated operational range of 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) and can reach a maximum altitude of up to 185 kilometers (607,000 feet). The 40N6 is assumed to be capable of exo-atmospheric interception of intermediate-range ballistic missile warheads in their terminal phase.)
  2. 250 km (48N6 missile- The S-400 is also armed with an improved variant of the 48N6E2 with an alleged range of 250 kilometers (160 miles).
  3. 120 km (9M96E2 missile – The air defense system can also fire two additional missiles, the 9M96E2 with respective ranges of 120 km (75 miles).  
  4. 40 km (9M96E missile – The air defense system can also fire two additional missiles, the 9M96E with respective ranges of 40 km (25 miles).

China is not being a part of MTCR, China won’t be able to get 40N6 missile. However, various sources claimed that Russia supplied China with 40N6 missile on a shipment that was overboard by bad weather during a voyage over English Channel. So they are buying 48N6 missiles where as India is buying 40N6 missiles. So India will be paying more cost. And also some transfer of technology is included in Indian deal. India is buying 5 system and 6000 missiles. Nobody needs second thought to believe that missiles will have to be manufactured in India.

It is not known what missiles China has ordered from Russia. According to some reports, the first regimental unit delivered to China will be armed with the 48N6E2, next to other missiles, whereas the second regiment might receive the 40N6E, the export variant of the 40N6. The 40N6 is the S-400’s most advanced missile interceptor and is expected to be inducted into service with the Russian military this month or next.

The S-400 Triumph is capable of engaging all types of aerial targets, including tactical and strategic aircraft, ballistic missiles and hypersonic jets. With a range of 400km, the S-400 can engage up to 36 targets simultaneously with as many as 72 missiles at altitudes of between 5 metres (16 feet) and 30km (19 miles).

With the S-400’s missiles incoming at speeds of Mach 8.2, in the case of the 48N6E2, and Mach 14 in the case of the 48N6E3 and 40N6, the missiles can be launched from command posts on the Chinese mainland and will reach their targets over Taiwan in a matter of seconds.

Target Illumination

The S-400 Trimuf can engage all types of aerial targets such as aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which are within the range of 400km, at an altitude of up to 30km. It can track 100 airborne targets, including 4th Gen fighters such as the American built F-16 and engage six of them simultaneously.

The problem for Moscow is that while Russian early warning and acquisitions radars operating in the VHF, UHF, L and S bands can detect and even track a tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft, those systems don’t deliver a weapons quality track. Russia has invested in low-band early warning radars, with some great variants out there, but can it use these to put a good picture together, and process it to develop a track against low-observation aircraft.

Illumination radar is the most weakest point of Russian air defense systems as Russia is yet to master on Gallium Nitrate technology and synthetic aperture radar which are spoofing proof. A swarm attack by American MALD-J will easily blind illumination radar making S-400 systems completely useless against high electronic interfered environment.


Russia’s S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) is the latest long-range antiaircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and surface targets. The system can hit aerodynamic targets at a range of up to 400 kilometers (249 miles) and tactical ballistic targets flying at a speed of 4.8 km/s (3 mi/s) at a distance of up to 60 kilometers (37 miles). Such targets include cruise missiles, tactical and strategic aircraft and ballistic missile warheads.

The system’s radars detect aerial targets at a distance of up to 600 kilometers (373 miles). The system’s 48N6E3 surface-to-air missiles can hit aerodynamic targets at altitudes of 10,000-27,000 meters and ballistic threats at altitudes of 2,000-25,000 meters.


Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 400 km and an altitude of up to 30 km, the S-400 can also be deployed against ground targets, and is the most advanced air defense system in Russia’s arsenal.

The Russian-made S-400 missile system, which is equipped with eight launchers and 32 missiles, is advertised capability of targeting stealth warplanes like the F-35 fighter.

The fire control radar is under the engagement range of American-made AGM-88 HARM and JSOW which can destroy fire control radar before the radar start tracking any stealth target.

S-400 Detection Range

Operational History

Later in the day, a military source said that a fourth battalion would soon be deployed outside the town of Dzhankoy in Crimea’s north.

The S-400 defence system has been deployed in Syria in 2015 to guard Russian and Syrian naval and air assets. Russia has also stationed S-400 units in Crimea to strengthen its position in the annexed peninsula.

S-400s were earlier deployed to Feodosiya and Sevastopol in January 2017 and 2018, respectively.


The S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system is Russia’s latest generation mobile air defense system. As of 2016, at least 312 S-400 launchers were deployed across 39 regiments. The Russian military accepted into service its first S-400 regiment of the year earlier 2018, bringing the total number of deployed S-400 regiments in the Russian military to 24, according to a Diplomat estimate. By 2020, this number is expected to grow to 28 regimens or 56 battalions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sputnik last week that Russia and India had inked a historic $5.4 billion deal on the supply of the S-400 Triumf air defense missiles to New Delhi. The agreement was clinched during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India for talks with the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Turkey will be the first NATO member state to acquire the advanced Russian surface-to-air missile system in a deal worth $2.5bn, Rostec’s Sergei Chemezov told Russian newspaper Kommersant in December. Turkey is slated to receive the S-400 next year and is expected to have the system ready for war by 2020.

Russia’s Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation has neither confirmed the delivery, nor the transfer of the first S-400 regimental set to the PLA. China has reportedly ordered two S-400 regiments for an estimated $3 billion.

Countermeasures by the West

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 below picture illustrates that the Russians actually didn’t see the strike occurring, thanks to Sky Shield support jammers, — the S-400 radar failed to detect combat aircraft and were taken entirely by surprise when the Israelis contacted them with the missiles 1 minute (maybe 15km or less) out from the targets.

Latakia base in Syria before and after Israeli F-35I Air Strike

The fact that the Syrians didn’t fire during the strike either suggests that Sky Shield EW attacks disabled both Syrian and Russian systems including S-400.

Israeli F-16 used Sky Shield to successfully jam Syrian Buk-M3 and Pantsir-S1 point defense Systems before destroying the point defense Systems using Delilah cruise missile. Delilah is a cruise missile capable of deceiving enemy air defense system and loiter over a contested area before hitting the target. Delilah has a range of 250km and can penetrate any air defense system.

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.

Effective Jamming by EA-18 Growler

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.

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.AGM-84E HARM (Source Raytheon)


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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