The recent sale of the Russian S-400 air-defense system to Saudi Arabia and Turkey is a major blow to the U.S. and its European allies. Stephen Bryen of The National Interest discusses the game changing capabilities of the S-400 and why the U.S. should be worried.
Among other countries with the S-300 system are Greece, a NATO ally who got them from Cyprus when the Turks threatened Cyprus with war unless the country gave up its missiles. Thus, they were given to Greece to defuse a crisis with Turkey.
There are other users of these systems. There is China, of course, but also India, Ukraine, Venezuela and NATO member Bulgaria, to name a few.
But the S-400 is the real game changer. The reason is the multiple intercept missiles the S-400 system can fire. 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). By comparison the US Patriot system supports only one interceptor missile with a range of 96 km.
— European Security (@esj_news) January 4, 2018
But there is more. The 9M96E2 is one of the jewels of the S-400 system. It flies at Mach 15 (around 5,000 meters per second or 18,500 kph), it can engage targets as low as 5 meters off the ground, and it can maneuver pulling up to 20 Gs (a human can withstand no more than 9 Gs with special pressure suits and helmets and for only a few seconds). It is designed to knock out penetrating aircraft and missiles flying “off the deck” or just above ground and neutralize cruise missiles.
Dr. Carlo Kopp, one of the world’s top aerospace experts, says the S-400 has optional acquisition radars designed to defeat modern stealth aircraft such as the F-22 and the F-35. They work by operating in multiple frequency bands including both VHF and L bands that can “see” stealth-protected fighters.
Stealth designs have been built on low-detection by X-band radars, the most common military and civilian radars (others such as C-band – now known as the G/H band – are less prevalent). The F-35 has stealth protection mainly in the front of the aircraft, meaning that when it turns away from its target it is vulnerable. In time, the entire air defense system of the US and its allies, all based primarily on X band, will become obsolete as China and Russia move toward stealth aircraft and missiles.
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