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What Is the S-400? The Russian Missile System in Turkey That Irks the Pentagon

What Is the S-400?

The first elements of a complicated, Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile system, often known as the S-400, arrived in Turkey on Friday.

It was a second American officers had been anticipating for months. They had warned Turkey that buying the tools would jeopardize the nation’s anticipated receipt of American-made F-35 warplanes. And now they need to determine find out how to react.

Here is a take a look at how the missile system is threatening to drive a wedge into NATO and what it means about Turkey’s relationships with Russia and the West.

What is the S-400?

The S-400 surface-to-air missile system is considered one of Russia’s most superior antiaircraft weapons. It is an upgraded model of the S-300, the Soviet Union’s reply to the American Patriot missile batteries launched throughout the Cold War.

The S-400, additionally identified by NATO nations as the SA-21 Growler, has a number of parts: a truck that carries and launches as much as 4 missiles, and separate radars — working on completely different frequencies — that community collectively for extra accuracy.

What distinguishes the S-400 from older methods is its capacity to focus on and assault a number of plane at a mean vary of 250 kilometers, or roughly 155 miles, and at altitudes of round 82,000 ft.

The S-400 is designed to behave as the spine of an air protection community that has a number of layers of defenses, equivalent to shorter vary missiles, positioned round it. But not all Western protection analysts view the S-400 as a breakthrough weapon.

“It’s quite capable and at the same time it’s terribly overhyped,” mentioned Michael Kofman, an analyst with CNA Corporation, a nonprofit analysis institute. Despite descriptions of the S-400 as a “magic bullet” to defend in opposition to radar-evading stealth plane equivalent to the F-35, the S-400’s radars would nonetheless have problem monitoring these varieties of jets to precisely goal and hearth at them, Mr. Kofman mentioned.

Also unclear, Mr. Kofman added, is whether or not the S-400 methods that Russia exports, like the one delivered to Turkey on Friday, have diminished capabilities in comparison with the variations Russia makes use of for its personal protection.

The United States is nervous. Should it’s?

For one factor, NATO has already tried to assist Turkey with its total air protection methods, and it’s not clear the S-400 can simply be built-in. But America’s larger fear is the safety of delicate details about its F-35 warplanes.

Turkey has 100 or so of the superior American jet fighters on order. It was additionally alleged to play a job in the manufacture and upkeep of the warplanes.

The Pentagon is worried that Turkey will want Russian technicians to coach the Turks and calibrate the S-400 system, and that in the course of, Russia will study so much about any F-35s the Turks could have acquired — info the Americans need stored secret.

As a end result, the Pentagon has threatened to chop Turkey out of its F-35 program if it proceeds with the S-400 buy.

But Mr. Kofman, of the CNA Corporation, mentioned American issues have been overblown. Their speaking level, he mentioned, was “not technically valid.”

The solely factor the S-400 can do with its radars is monitor the flight profile of the F-35, one thing that Russia already does in the Middle East and the Baltics, as the S-400 in Syria and radar stations in Kaliningrad monitor American plane equivalent to the F-35 and F-22 all the time, Mr. Kofman mentioned.

Does this drive a wedge into NATO?

Beyond the Pentagon’s technical issues, the buy raises a lot of strategic and geopolitical questions.

Analysts say it’s nearly unprecedented for a NATO member like Turkey to show to Russia for such a complicated piece of army tools.

Many NATO governments, in any case, see Russia as an ever extra emboldened risk to the West, and certainly not a provider price trusting with a few of a fellow member nation’s most important defensive tools.

Turkey, too, has not seen eye to eye with Russia, most dramatically over the civil conflict in Syria, in which the Kremlin has backed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whereas Turkey has supported insurgent factions.

So why would Turkey purchase the S-400 anyway?

American interventions in Iraq and Syria have bolstered Kurdish teams seen by Turkey as terrorist separatists who threaten Turkey’s integrity and symbolize its most pressing safety concern.

That, analysts say, is a significant supply of Turkey’s distrust of the United States, and of its rising cooperation with Russia.

What’s extra, Turkey for years had sought to fill a niche in its defenses by shopping for an American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system, however talks with Washington failed to provide a deal. And whereas NATO has stationed a Patriot system on Turkish soil since the outbreak of Syria’s civil conflict in 2011, Ankara has insisted on shopping for considered one of its personal.

With the United States retreating from the area and Russia seen as a resurgent regional energy, Turkey appears to have determined to unfold its bets.

Turkey and Russia have prevented clashes exterior Syria, and have come to collaborate by means of peace talks led by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

But the S-400 buy is a threat for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Mr. Erdogan has pursued the Russian missile system regardless of American warnings and the harm that sanctions may do to his country’s already suffering economy, together with a renewed slide in the Turkish lira.

What is President Trump’s place?

It has not aligned precisely along with his protection officers’ view. The Pentagon has positioned the duty on Turkey, warning the Turks of significant penalties over the S-400 buy.

Mr. Trump, although, has blamed the administration of former President Barack Obama, saying the Turks felt compelled to purchase the Russian system as a result of Mr. Obama had didn’t promote them American-made protection methods as an alternative.

“It’s a mess,” Mr. Trump mentioned at the Group of 20 assembly final month. “And honestly, it’s not really Erdogan’s fault.”

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