The Russian military lost one of its prized S-400 Triumf air defense systems in Ukraine. This is the first confirmed loss of Russia’s most advanced air defense system.
Advertised as one of the best air defense systems in the world—that can even take on the F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jet in a fight—the S-400 is undoubtedly a capable air defense system. However, how effective it still remains in question.
Ukraine scores the first S-400 kill
Destroyed in November, the weapon system was initially believed to be an S-300 (an older version of the S-400). But better footage from the ground has relieved that, in fact, the destroyed air defense system is the more modern version.
Footage from Ukraine visually verifies the loss of one S-400 Triumf air defense battery. The loss concerns a 5P85SM2-01 Transporter erector launcher (TEL) with 5V55R missiles. The action took place near the village of Ilyino in the Zaporizhzhia province in the south, but it is still unclear how the Ukrainians destroyed the S-400 Triumf.
The S-400 Triumf has the ability to engage a wide range of different air threats up to a range of approximately 250 miles. Moreover, the air defense weapon can fire a wide range of missiles tailored for different roles.
In a lot of ways, the S-400 Triumf is an updated version of the older S-300 air defense weapon. The two anti-aircraft missile systems share a lot of hardware, but the S-400 Triumf has a more modern radar system, improved software, as well as the ability to fire newer, more advanced missiles that can reach targets farther off. Moreover, the S-400 Triumf is equipped with electronic warfare countermeasures, such as beam-steering for better target acquisition and tracking radio frequency-hopping to counter radar jamming.
If you want to know whether the S-400 Triumf is superior to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot air defense system, Sandboxx New’s Editor-in-Chief Alex Hollings has written a brilliant article on the topic.
In addition, the loss of the S-400 Triumf (also known as the SA-21 Growler in NATO parlance) is a blow to the image of the weapon system. Moscow and the Russian defense and aerospace industry have touted the S-400 Triumf as one of the most capable air defense systems out there.
Related: UK intelligence says Russia’s Su-57 is involved in Ukraine war
The Russian military has been very careful with its most advanced weapon systems in Ukraine. Despite losing ground almost all across the battlefield, the Russian military hasn’t employed any of its most advanced weapons in any meaningful role. The British military intelligence assessed this week that Moscow might be sending the T-14 Armata main battle tank to Ukraine soon, and a few days ago, it had assessed that the Russian Aerospace Forces had been using the Su-57 Felon fifth generation fighter jet in limited long-range attack roles.
The Kremlin isn’t saving them for a surprise counterattack but is rather trying to protect their reputation and, most importantly, their market value. Every year, the Russian defense and aerospace industries sell billions of dollars worth of weapon systems to countries all around the globe. Losses of these modern and expensive weapon systems will make them less appealing to foreign buyers.
The loss of the S-400 Triumf might force the Russian military to take the weapon system off the battlefield and relocate it to strictly force protection duties within Russia. As for the Ukrainians, the destruction of the S-400 Triumf is further testament to their operational effectiveness on the ground.
The S-400, Turkey, and big drama in NATO
The S-400 Triumf has caused big drama in NATO.
In 2019, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan decided to purchase the weapon system from Russia (Moscow provided a loan in rubles). However, by doing so, Turkey pushed itself out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Ankara was first suspended and then removed from the program, thus losing the opportunity to acquire around 100 F-35A stealth fighter jets.
Despite repeated warnings from the U.S. not to operate the S-400 Triumf, Turkey activated the air defense system and thus violated the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). As a result, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkish persons and the country’s defense industry.
Enacted in 2017, the CAATSA is specifically designed to counter the influence of Russia around the world.
The White House can impose a set of sanctions on persons or entities that the U.S. has determined knowingly engage in “a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.”
Feature Image: The S-400 launcher destroyed by Ukraine in November. (Clash Report Twitter)
Shawn Santo says
The destruction of a TEL (Transporter, Erector and Launcher vehicle) of a S-400 system is significant.
There are several observations that should be noted:
1- The missile canisters are in the “transport” configuration, not “launch” configuration. Combined with the bottom two images from the Twitter account. The TEL was on the move or part of a convoy most likely when it was destroyed. The two images show the wreckage on a road, while the others show the same wreck in mud, possibly after being towed off to the side of the road to clear the way for following traffic.
2- The TEL could have been destroyed by a) artillery or rocket artillery fire, b) drone strike or c) ground ambush.
3- None of the above speaks to the overall effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the S-400 system itself, only to the security (particularly the lack of thereof) of the system as it moved from point A to point B.
4- The lack of pictures of a command vehicle or radar assembly also destroyed means the Battalion it belongs to is still somewhat effective. There are I believe eight TEL in a S-400 battalion.
Still, kudos for destroying a S-400 TEL.
Petr Jansa says
This is NOT going to end well for anyone or any country.