02.11.2020 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Russian S-400 Anti-aircraft Systems Turning Heads


Turkey’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems attracted the attention of not only the United States and NATO countries. In fact, the entire world is closely following the ongoing year-long confrontation between Washington and Ankara over this arms deal, in which the United States is strenuously trying to involve not only its NATO allies, but strengthen numerous measures for preventing other countries from acquiring the S-400, in.

Don’t forget that the Triumph S-400 (according to NATO codification-SA-21 Growler) is a Russian long and medium-range anti-aircraft missile system that has been in implemented in Russia since 2007. Numerous Western and American experts call the S-400 one of the best class systems in the world, designed to defeat air attack and reconnaissance vehicles (including aircraft made using stealth technology) and any other air targets in conditions of intense fire and electronic countermeasures.

Due to its mobility and technical characteristics, the S-400 is significantly superior to its closest competitor, the American Patriot anti-missile system. The Russian system is compatible with various types of missiles.  In addition, even Western experts estimate that this complex is almost twice as cheap as its American competitor. Turkey acquired the first four battalions of Air Defense System for just $2.5 billion, although Washington requested much larger amounts for the American Patriot complex, which incidentally, couldn’t justify the Pentagon’s advertised “combat capability” for failing to protect Saudi oil installations against missile fire.

It’s worth mentioning that initially Ankara intended to acquire the Patriot, but the deal was twice disrupted in 2013 and 2017 due to Washington’s refusal to provide Ankara with secret technologies related to producing the system and the requirements of guarantees of non-interference by Turkish engineers, full information about each shot and the complex tasks. The Patriot systems operation period was also limited, after which Turkey was obliged to return them to the US army. Thus, Washington practically established its strict control over the use of American air defense systems, even on Turkish soil.

In addition, it must be said that there was a political subtext behind Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. It is related to the fact that, during the attempted military coup in Turkey in 2016, Ankara had the capabilities of American air defense and US advisers, including special services, Washington did not take any steps to save President Erdogan from the planned assassination attempt. As it became known, the plane of the Turkish President was planned to shoot down and with the help of the CIA replace Erdogan with Washington’s henchman-Fethullah Gulen, using ISIL terrorists as the main force. But, since two weeks before this planned action, the Turkish President apologized to Moscow for Downing a Russian Su-24 bomber, the Russian defense Ministry considered it possible to launch an operation to protect and rescue the Turkish leader with the help of an elite special forces regiment of the Russian defense Ministry.

Yes, times are changing, but Washington’s attempts to eliminate the Turkish leader, replacing him with the long-time CIA-bought Fethullah Gulen, do not change. And this is evidenced by the attempts periodically uncovered by the Turkish special services to create new gulenist plans in Turkey against Erdogan and the testimony of new representatives of the military and local business structures who were arrested for this.

As a result, in mid-July 2019, the first components of Russian surface-to-air missiles arrived in Anatolia, and in early September of the same year, Ankara sent teams intended for the operation and maintenance of this type of weapon to Russia for training. In November 2019, the Turkish military activated the system’s radar and began using it to monitor its own F-4 and F-16 class fighters, thereby making sure that the Russian S-400 air defense system is indeed capable of detecting American-made aircraft.

In January 2020, Turkey received interceptor missiles, after which, from a purely technical point of view, the systems could be brought into full combat readiness. Due to the outbreak of the US-Turkish standoff over a major arms deal between Ankara and Moscow, Ankara’s gesture of goodwill to the US NATO ally was the postponement of S-400 installed batteries in Turkey is on combat duty, although earlier President Erdogan personally indicated that this would happen in April this year.

In early October 2020, S-400 air defense system tests with live charges took place, during which three British produced Meggitt BTT-3 Banshee UAVs, which were purchased by Ankara specifically for testing the air defense system, were easily destroyed. As noted by Turkish experts, the S-400 confidently captured targets at different heights.

As for Western media, many of them noted these successful tests by Turkey, as well as the fact that Turkish air defense forces not only followed recent NATO ally exercises in the Mediterranean, but also “conducted real preparations for launching S-400 missiles at Alliance aircraft” (referring to the F-16 fighters of the Greek air force).

Turkey’s successful tests of the S-400 and explicit precautions against Washington and Brussels for their use against NATO countries, certainly contributed to the active connection of new countries to the list interested in purchasing Russian long range air defense missile systems, in particular, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Vietnam and Iraq.

And only the White house, along with the US Congress, continue to threaten imposing sanctions on Turkey due to Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400s.  However, such steps by Washington only pile on to the misunderstanding and objections brewing in Turkey. According to Turkish politicians and media, Ankara rejects the us claims that “a NATO country cannot use Russian weapons.” At the same time, it is indicated that many NATO members, primarily Greece, have been using all sorts of Russian weapons for many years, and even Russian S-300 air defense systems, which Greece, for example, purchased from Russia 24 years ago. As for Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400, they recall what US President Trump himself said in Osaka: “We made a mistake by not selling the Patriot to Turkey. So Erdogan had to go and buy the S-400, don’t blame him.”

In addition, Ankara recalls that, in addition to Greece, S-300 missiles are in Bulgaria and Slovakia… S-200 and S-125 in Bulgaria and Poland… Grad systems and T-72 V tanks Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Romania… Mi-24 combat helicopters and MiG-29 b fighters Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Almost all weapons transferred by the US to Kurdish terrorist groups in Syria amounting to 5 thousand trucks were purchased from Russia. Among these weapons were advanced guided missiles.

However, only the S-400 is of interest to the Turkish military. The Turkish defense Ministry posted a video of it firing during the Ateş Serbest-2020 exercise on it’s YouTube channel, which began on October 22 this year, showing the Kaplan-10 self-propelled anti-tank system, which is armed with Russian Kornet-E missiles.  The complex was developed as part of the program to update the fleet of Turkish self-propelled anti-tank vehicles. But the use of the Russian ATGM Kornet in Turkey is not an isolated incident: the FNSS weapons company has introduced a new version of the Pars 4×4 wheeled armored vehicle, made as a self-propelled ATGM equipped with a combat module and Russian anti-tank 9M133-1 Kornet-E missiles.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.