• Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Swedish Defense Agency's Damning Report on S-400's Capabilities

Discussion in 'Pakistan Air Force' started by Counter-Errorist, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Counter-Errorist

    Counter-Errorist FULL MEMBER

    Oct 29, 2009
    +11 / 1,242 / -0
    Published here (downloadable PDF):

    Relevant excerpts:

    While Russia has a long pedigree of using long-range missiles to keep airborne
    or shipborne adversaries out, or hitting targets on land, the recent claims of far-
    reaching A2/AD-capabilities are mainly based on three fairly new systems: the
    S-400 anti-aircraft system, the Bastion anti-ship system, and the Iskander ballistic
    missile system for use against land targets. Most of the rather alarmist accounts
    of Russia’s A2/AD-capabilities in recent years have been based on uncritical
    acceptance of Russian claims concerning the range and performance of these
    systems. Besides uncritically taking Russian data at face value, the three cardinal
    sins have been:

    (i) confusing the maximal nominal range of missiles with the effective range of
    the systems;
    (ii) disregarding the inherent problems of seeing and hitting a moving target at a
    distance, especially targets below the horizon; and
    (iii) underestimating the potential for countermeasures against A2/AD-systems.

    The S-400 anti-aircraft system is often said to have a 400-km range and be
    capable of intercepting a gamut of targets, from lumbering transport aircraft to
    agile fighter jets and cruise missiles, and even ballistic missiles. In fact, the
    missile with a purported 400-km range, the 40N6, is not yet operational and has
    been plagued by problems in development and testing. In its current
    configuration, the S-400 system should mainly be considered a threat to large
    high-value aircraft such as AWACS or transport aircraft at medium to high
    altitudes, out to a range of 200-250 km. In contrast, the effective range against
    agile fighter jets and cruise missiles operating at low altitudes can be as little 20-
    35 km. Moreover, despite its sophistication, an S-400 battery is dependent on a
    single engagement radar and has a limited number of firing platforms. It is thus
    vulnerable both to munitions targeting its engagement radar and to saturation
    attacks. If and when the 40N6 missile goes online, its 400-km technical range
    cannot be effectively exploited against targets below approximately 3000 meters
    unless target data can be provided and updated during the missile’s flight by
    airborne or forward-deployed radars. Such a capability – often known as
    Cooperative Engagement – has only recently been successfully achieved by the
    U.S. Navy, and is a highly complex and demanding endeavour that Russia should
    not be expected to master within 10-15 years.


    However, many of the sensationalist claims about Russia’s A2/AD capabilities –
    of bubbles as no-go zones, and on their ripple effects – are clearly overblown and
    do not stand up to closer or professional scrutiny. 20 For example, hardly any of
    these stories take account of the fact that the Earth is round while radar beams
    normally travel in a straight line. This means that the effective range of radar is
    usually limited to a “horizon”, much in the same way that the human eye is. This
    effect is most pronounced for radars located at ground level searching for objects
    at the same level or at low altitude. In such cases, the range is normally 40 km or
    less, while the radar horizon widens considerably if either the radar or the target
    is airborne and particularly at higher altitude ( see Map 1 below and Appendix 2 ).


    (Map 1: Ranges for ground-based radars against targets at different altitudes.)

    The S-400 air defence system is often claimed to have a 400-km range, but FOI’s
    technical experts estimate that the effective range against maneuvering targets at
    low altitude is much less, even down to 20 km for smaller targets hugging the terrain. Russian specialists have estimated the effective range of the S-400
    against old and un-stealthy Tomahawk cruise missiles to be 24–36 km in mixed
    terrain. At low altitudes, the masking effect of terrain, trees and buildings can
    cause a diagram of the effective range to resemble a Rorschach-blot rather than
    a neat circle. The S-400 system also has limitations when dealing with a large
    number of targets that appear within a short space of time, such as a swarm of
    cruise missiles.


    The S-400 is a heavy but mobile SAM system, known as Triumf in Russia and
    the SA-21 Growler by NATO. 65 It is marketed as being close to omnipotent
    against almost all kinds of flying targets, from ballistic missiles and strategic
    aircraft, to stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and precision guided munitions
    (PGMs). In reality, the system is probably optimized for the interception of
    ballistic missiles and large high-value aircraft at high altitudes, with an ancillary
    function against smaller targets at lower altitudes.

    Said to be one of the best air-defence systems currently in production, it entered
    service with the Russian Armed Forces in 2007 but did not become operational
    in Kaliningrad until 2012 and near St Petersburg until 2016. The S-400 system
    is meant to utilize different kinds of missiles, which differ in speed, range and
    guidance 68 , much like the US Patriot system can use different missiles for
    different targets and purposes:

    - A large, very long-range (400 km) high-speed missile with active radar
    guidance, known as the 40N6, is intended primarily for use against large
    high-value targets. This missile is the basis for the oft-repeated claim
    that the S-400 has a range of 400 km, but has repeatedly failed in tests
    and is not yet in series production or operational. However, Moscow
    has recently claimed that it has now been cleared for production.

    - A large, long-range (200–250 km) high-speed missile with semi-active
    guidance, known as the 48N6, is probably intended for the same types
    of targets. This is a slightly enhanced version of the missile used in the
    older S-300 family of systems, known as SA-10 Grumble and SA-20
    Gargoyle by NATO.

    - A highly agile short- to medium-range (two versions exist, 40 and 120
    km) missile with active radar guidance, known as the 9M96 and
    9M96DM, is intended for use against tactical aircraft, PGMs and
    ballistic missile warheads. This missile is primarily for self-defence of
    the S-400 units and any Russian high-value targets close to it.

    An S-400 battalion consists of two batteries, each with a command centre, one
    surveillance/target acquisition radar, one fire control and engagement radar
    (92N6 known as Grave Stone by NATO) and four launch trucks (formally called
    transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, TEL) each carrying four large or 16 small
    missiles, plus vehicles for auxiliary functions such as reloading and power
    supply. Other types of search radars or target acquisition radars can be added,
    such as mast-mounted or with alleged capabilities against stealth aircraft. Two
    battalions make up a regiment and the battalion is normally connected to
    additional sensors and command functions at the regimental level, as well as to
    territorial search radars, electronic listening stations and the air defence
    command-and-control network. All the main functions are mounted on large
    multi-axle trucks. These can be airlifted, but only on very large transport aircraft.


    The S-400 is by all accounts a potent air defence system, but is still far from the
    400-km range menace to all things flying that it is often made out to be. Since
    the most potent long-range missile is still not operational, the currently fielded
    system uses the same long-range semi-active missile as the later versions of the
    older S-300-system, thus limiting range and performance against all targets but
    large aircraft at high altitude. Until the 40N6-missile is actually fielded, the
    main new features of the S-400 system is that its more modern radar is able to
    handle a greater number of targets simultaneously, and that its agile short- to
    medium-range active missiles have capabilities against low-flying and
    maneuvering targets and against incoming PGMs.

    However, the comparatively short range of these agile missiles, in combination
    with the inherent problems of acquiring low-flying objects, limits the effective
    range of the S-400 against maneuvering targets at low altitude – such as cruise
    missiles or fighter aircraft. Against such targets its effective range may be as little
    as 20-35 km, or even less depending on the terrain. This means – at least until
    the 40N6 missile becomes operational – that the much-vaunted S-400 far from
    establishes a ‘no-go-zone’ over the southern Baltic. It should mainly be seen as
    a threat to tankers, transports, and other large aircraft flying at high to medium
    altitudes within 200–250 km, and against fighter aircraft or PGMs directly
    attacking the S-400 battery or objects in its immediate vicinity.
    Moreover, if and when the 40N6 missile becomes operational, in order to fully
    exploit its range against targets between 3 000 and 10 000 metres altitude, it will
    be necessary to connect the S-400 battery to an external (airborne or forward-
    placed) radar that can see the target and provide usable target data for the missile
    battery. Using an external and forward-placed sensor to provide target data so
    that a “shooter” (launch unit) positioned further back can fire on a target beyond
    the horizon is often called a Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). When
    applied to airborne targets capable of moving in three dimensions at high speed,
    this is a demanding task involving a lot of high-tech engineering and integration,
    which the US Navy has only recently mastered after decades of effort. Given
    the problems in Russia’s defence industries, perhaps particularly defence
    electronics, it seems unlikely that Russia will be able to do this anytime soon.
    • Thanks Thanks x 7
  2. Counter-Errorist

    Counter-Errorist FULL MEMBER

    Oct 29, 2009
    +11 / 1,242 / -0
    Another vulnerability of S-300 and S-400 systems is their capacity to handle
    multiple targets simultaneously. An S-300 battalion’s target engagement radar is
    reported to be able to handle 12 targets simultaneously and the battalion has 24
    missiles available without reloading. 141 Standard Russian practice is to fire two
    missiles at each target. This means that an attack of more than 12 incoming
    missiles or glide bombs is likely to overwhelm the S-300 battalion – what in
    military jargon is called a saturation attack.

    Similarly, an S-400 battery can have 16 long-range missiles ready to fire, or 64
    medium-range missiles or a mix of the two. A battalion of S-400 consists of two
    batteries and thus has twice those numbers. Russian sources claim the S-400
    system can handle up to 36 targets simultaneously, but the number of missiles
    and the doctrine of firing two missiles means that a battalion can handle a
    maximum of 16 targets at the same time with long-range missiles, or 64 targets
    if only medium-range missiles have been loaded. However, that two batteries
    in the same battalion should have loaded up with only medium-range missiles
    seems unlikely, as that would mean yielding the capability to engage at long
    range. The large long-range missiles of the S-300 and S-400 systems are heavy
    and bulky (weighing close to two tons), which means that reloading after a salvo
    has been fired takes time.

    These characteristics would seem to allow an adversary to devise a straight-
    forward saturation attack consisting of escort jamming, dozens of air-launched
    precision-guided stand-off weapons, and air-launched decoys. The incoming
    attack will force the battery to light up its engagement radar and reveal its
    location. Then, once the readied surface-to-air missiles have been expended on
    incoming decoys and missiles, taking out the engagement radar should not be too

    Alternatively, an S-300 or S-400 unit could be taken out by long-range rocket
    artillery or by guided glide bombs delivered by stealth aircraft. This, however,
    requires reasonably reliable data on the battery’s location, something drones or
    special forces could contribute to, particularly in the small and accessible
    Kaliningrad exclave.

    Finally, account needs to be taken of the fact that the track record of Russian-
    made air defence systems against Western or Israeli airpower in Syria is less than
    impressive (see Appendix 1). The loss of an Israeli F-16 to Syrian SAMs in
    February 2018 was a reminder that the IAF has operated without losses in Syrian
    airspace for more than three decades. The USA and its allies have successfully
    conducted two major raids on Syrian compounds associated with chemical
    warfare, in 2017 and 2018, without any effective response from Syrian or Russian
    air defences. Furthermore, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve against the
    Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, coalition air forces have conducted a good-
    size air campaign in Syrian airspace for four consecutive years.

    A second and larger night time raid on three chemical warfare compounds near
    Damascus and Homs was launched a year later in response to yet another attack
    on civilians. This raid once again involved Tomahawk missiles launched from
    US ships, but also JAASM stealthy cruise missiles launched from US B-1B
    bombers (the first combat use of the JAASM) and Scalp/Storm Shadow cruise
    missiles launched by British fighter aircraft and from French ships and fighters.
    In all, 66 Tomahawks and a small number of Scalps were launched from ships in
    the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, while the aircraft launched
    their cruise missiles from outside Syrian airspace. British Tornadoes took off
    from an airbase in Cyprus while the French Rafales used a base in France.

    According to the Pentagon, all the missiles reached their targets within minutes
    of each other and the targets were thoroughly destroyed.

    This time, the Russians were not notified in advance of the strike, but the
    Pentagon had planned the flight paths so as not to pass by Russian bases. More-
    over, two Prowlers were detailed for escort jamming and SEAD in case the
    Russians lit up their S-400 and S-300s. Apparently, the US Central Command
    thought that, if required, two Prowlers would be sufficient for the task.

    After the raid, Syria and Russia claimed that more sites had been attacked and
    that a varying number of missiles – ranging from 13 to 79 – had been shot down.
    However, the coalition denied any losses of missiles and said that the roughly 40
    air defence missiles launched by Syria in response to the raid were launched after
    the missiles had already hit their targets. Furthermore, they said that the Syrian
    missiles had been launched “blindly” into the air, i.e. without guidance or having
    acquired a target.
    • Thanks Thanks x 8
  3. Alternatiiv

    Alternatiiv FULL MEMBER

    Sep 2, 2018
    +11 / 2,150 / -0
    Was bound to be checked. Everyone boasts about the capability of their weapons, which is purely theoretical, practically they end up being useless; we all saw how effective the S-300 and S-400s were against Israeli F-16s, so effective that the Russians shot down their own jet.
    • Thanks Thanks x 3
  4. The SC


    Feb 13, 2012
    +16 / 17,262 / -0
    Yet, there are many other potent Russian radars that can be linked to the S-400 system on top of its own radar.. Also it works in a layered air defence environment and with aerial and naval assets..

    "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.

    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."


    And they are lying about "only one radar" :

    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
    • Thanks Thanks x 4
  5. 313ghazi

    313ghazi SENIOR MEMBER

    Mar 14, 2017
    +24 / 7,779 / -0
    United Kingdom
    Great post, it's really good to read some detailed thought out content.

    In my opinion this part of the article is the most important bit. Air defence must be layered and integrated. You need to be in a position that any one of your radars can be utilised to track and target the enemy using any one of your SAM batteries. This should include AWAC's and radar on other aircraft too.

    Similarly if you can use ground radar information to feed your fighter jets, you'll give them an advantage too.
  6. aziqbal


    Aug 26, 2010
    +6 / 1,875 / -0
    Honestly it’s about the operators as is it the system

    In the hands of Syria the Israelis would probably knock the S400 out

    In the hands of Hezbollah the Igla was enough to take down Israeli AH-64

    All comes down to operator

    Having said that there is no doubt S400 is a potent air defence system
    • Thanks Thanks x 9
  7. Itachi

    Itachi FULL MEMBER

    Aug 27, 2013
    +1 / 597 / -0
    United States
    lol the writers haven't heard about Over The Horizon (OTH) radars? What about AWACS?

    In battle, the main radar would obviously be on passive search mode or turned off, relying on the AWACS radar feed, which can search further & can track more targets too.

    In the future, they would also have drones that would serve as mini-AWACS and with the saturation of these mini-AWAC drones across the battlefield, along with multiple forward radars, this system will be able to see anything within the 400-km radius and beyond.

    The S-400's capabilities in Syria aren't fully seen because it cannot target Israeli planes. Plus, the Russians have moved onto the S-500 and will have fully integrated it by the time they have to use any SAMS in battle.

    The S-500 has all the capabilities of the S-400 and more, other nations haven't even built their own S-400 like systems yet...:D
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  8. Signalian

    Signalian SENIOR MEMBER

    Aug 18, 2015
    +114 / 9,373 / -0
    @Tps43 almost the same thing we discussed in LY-80 Vs Rafale/SU30 thread in Army section.

    Its a cat and mouse game, but biased views develop due to fan boyism and patriotism.

    I wouldn't say S-400 is invincible, but it cannot be under estimated also at the same time.
  9. ziaulislam

    ziaulislam ELITE MEMBER

    Apr 22, 2010
    +10 / 7,702 / -2
    United States
    especially with small diameter cheap glide bombs each plan can carry dozens of those with range of 60-90 km
  10. Yousafzai_M

    Yousafzai_M FULL MEMBER

    Feb 1, 2015
    +0 / 465 / -1
    United Kingdom
    Take your SAB fighter jets to near their border and find out for real what S400 are capable. Until then, stop this crap.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  11. BHarwana


    Sep 24, 2016
    +15 / 30,552 / -4
    S-400 is currently the best air defence system that is there. So if you down grade S-400 the rest will have to go down also.

    It is a capable system. Yes system is not good against cruise missiles but for that Russia has other systems and like Tor-M or S-1
  12. Keysersoze

    Keysersoze SENIOR MEMBER

    Oct 13, 2006
    +0 / 742 / -0
    This is silly statement. The reality is that there are always ways around air defence systems. Sellers always oversell their product. Reality never matches the brochure.
    • Thanks Thanks x 2
  13. LeGenD


    Aug 28, 2006
    +16 / 6,776 / -0
    Not even close.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  14. Signalian

    Signalian SENIOR MEMBER

    Aug 18, 2015
    +114 / 9,373 / -0
    Can any enthusiastic indian member tell how far (in Km's) would JF-17 get detected from S-400's radar ?
  15. Sinnerman108

    Sinnerman108 SENIOR MEMBER

    Jul 20, 2009
    +4 / 7,253 / -12
    Saudi Arabia
    Indians have signatures ?
    If yes than at what range and from which platform did they get them ?