Whilst the recent purchase of the S-400 missile system by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey has caused consternation in Washington and NATO because of the geopolitical implications in the former and the military implications in latter, the question that needs addressing is its performance capabilities and quite simply why it knocks the spots of all its competitors.
The S-400 supports four different missiles which blows the likes of the Patriot and THAAD systems out of the water. Namely the short 9M96E which has a range of 25 miles, the intermediate 9M96E2 with a range of 75 miles, the long 48N6 with a range of 155 miles and the very long-range 40N6E with a range of 250 miles.
The capability to support four different missiles is impressive enough, but when you look at the 9M96E which can travel at Mach 15 speeds which is equivalent to 11500mph, can destroy targets at a height of a mere 5m above ground and can undertake manoeuvres at 20 G’s demonstrates just how technologically advanced this system is. The 9M96E is capable therefore of taking down missiles as they are launched or just above ground and aircraft as they literally take off.
In addition the S-400 has radar detection functionality which operates across multiple frequency bands allowing it to see stealth aircraft. The fact that the entire air defence system of the US and its allies operates its stealth capability on low detection by X-band radars will render them obsolete as China and Russia introduce further advancements in stealth aircraft and missile technologies. One should not underestimate how soon that could become a reality.
Whilst there have been undoubted geopolitical reasons for nations acquiring the S-400 as well as Russian weapons and fighter jets, the reality is that they are buying the most advanced technologies in the world and at relatively affordable prices. Whilst NATO continues to grandstand on the world stage and indirectly making overtures in that regard to Russia, they would do well to realise that they are already sitting ducks with regards to much of Russia’s military capabilities and soon enough they could be in totality. It is precisely why after Russian showcased some of their advanced technologies in Syria, the US and their allies backed off to a large extent in the Middle East. What perhaps they should be acutely aware of too is that Russia already has technological developments several iterations in advance of that which they have seen recently.