The latest month initial rumours about a realistic Turkish S-400 deal became almost a certainty. A few days ago, President of Turkey, Reztep Tayip Erdogan confirmed that the first payment of the 2.5 billion dollar deal have been deposited to the Russians. Official reports have not disclosed any details yet, but according to Turkish media, this deal included the acquisition of 4xS-400 battalions along with a double payload of missiles and technology transfer. The latter will help Turkey integrate the S-400 Hi-SAM into their national Integrated Air Defence System. ASESLAN would probably be one of the key local contributors. This company has a vast amount of experience in military RF equipment and electronics.
Even if Turkey wanted to manufacture some parts of the S-400 systems locally, this was denied from the Russian side. All missile batteries will be manufactured in Russia and be delivered in a 2-year period. It is not known yet if the 48N6E3 EDM missile (250 km range) or the 400 km 40N6 missile will be the main armament of those SAMs. Neither if anti-ballistic 9M96 (can be quad packed, range 120 km) with high Pk missiles will be part of the deal.Greek Defence Minister asked for help from the NATO members to contribute with effective solutions to counter the S-400 threat.
There was quite a debate inside the NATO armed forces if Turkey’s desire to procure the Russian system is a threat to the NATO communication protocols. After many debates and pressure towards Turkey, any NATO Radio and Telecommunication Equipment (Turkey or Allied owned) which is operating in Turkey is forbidden to be integrated with the S-400. With this decision it is ensured that no classified information would be revealed to Russian Technical staff who will be supporting the S-400 (at least during the first years).
Of course like with the Iran’s procurement of S-300s, it cannot be excluded that Diplomatic Pressure (maybe in conjunction with counterweight deal with the Russian side) from a country like the United States could delay for several years the delivery of these systems in the future.
But let’s have a look why are the S-400 missiles feared so much…Why it is a constant debate whether a country (Iran, China, Syria or Turkey) can procure this high-end Air-Defence System?
Some key features of the S-400:
- Simultaneusly engage 36 missiles, providing mid-course guidance to 72 of them
- The radar 91N2E can track 300 targets (export version can track 100)
- Reportedly detection range against Stealth targets 150 km
- Can be integrated with NEBO VHF/HF/L band radar. This could be of great importance regarding the tracking of Stealth Targets such as the F-35A JSF
- Volume search can be done by the 400 km range 96L6 radar
- 40N6 has an active seeker capable of engaging with great accuracy during the terminal phase.
- 9M96E1 and 9M96E2 missiles are available for self defense and increasing the payload. These missiles have far better Pk (0.8-0.9) against targets such as cruise and high-Mach ballistic missiles. Can be quad-packed. Each canister of the original 48N6 can be replaced with 4 9M96 missiles. A typical loadout includes 3x48N6 and 4x9M96.
- Low probability of Intercept
- Extremely resistant to jamming
- NATO IFF compatible (according to the manufacturer, NATO IFF can be integrated)
For a more detailed article regarding the S-400 capabilities read the following:
Greek Media going Frenzy
Every week since August various articles have been published regarding the future game changing turkish S-400 Hi-SAM operating against Hellenic Airforce. The problem have been recognized both by the Political Leadership (all political parties have been informed) and the HAF General Staff. In some cases dystopian conclusions have been drawn.
Greek Television news agency are warning every day about the S-400 deal. Greek Defence Minister warned that we must acquire additional military equipment to counter this threat. But due to budget constraints he asked for the help of the NATO partners. Of course this is unrealistic because Turkey is also a part of NATO which tries to hold a neutral side. France supported Turkey on this subject.
The possible location of the S-400 operating in Turkish soil may be seen below.
It can be separated in 3 Areas:
-Aegean Sea: The 400 km range of the Mach 7 (!) 40N6 missile creates an Access Denial zone for the Greek aircrafts trying to defend their Homeland-Aegean. Even if at distances near maximum range there might be evasion techniques to avoid incoming missiles, the Anti-Aircraft Umbrella deployed over most of the Greek Islands like Rhodes or Chios is dangerously alarming. The high casualties that Hellenic Airforce might suffer conducting CAS missions or Air Patrols over a target island that might be invaded creates an extremely hostile environment
-Cyprus: Even today with the latest F-16 Block 52+ equipped with Conformal Fuel Tanks, Cyprus is 400 km away from Crete. That means that Greek aircraft can stay for limited period of time defending the airspace over Cyprus. The lack of obstacles around the island makes it an ideal place for the Turkish side to position an S-400 battery. Even low flying aircrafts can be effectively engaged and shot down. In any attempt of an aircaft to overpass the denied area from the South , it will result in burning most of the fuel needed for the mission. The lack of Air Tanker in the Greek HAF is more important than ever.
-Turkish-Syrian Borders: The Instability in the Eastern Border with Syria and Iran requires at least one battery to be positioned near Incirlik. That battery would have a main Anti-Ballistic Role. This battery might be equipped with 9M96 missiles.
Note: Each battery consists of 8 launchers. Each launcher carries 4x40N6 missiles. That means that in the Aegean Sea 64 missiles would be ready to launch anytime. Having a moderate realistic Pk of 60% this would result in loosing almost 39 aircraft with a single blow. This corresponds to almost 25% of the HAF aircraft inventory…
In conclusion, the procurement of such an advanced system greatly changes the military balance in the area. The lack of Offensive Electronic Warfare Equipment (like the AN/ALQ-99 pods) may be critical along with the absence of Air-Tankers for defensive missions in Cyprus. With this deal Turkey is bringing an ACE system in the Aegean Sea.
The Greek Side is cornered but not without hope…
The Scalp-EG cruise missiles can be used to saturate the S-400 Air Defense. As analyzed in Simulating the Tomahawk Missile Attack in Syria, a saturated attack by a low-flying packet of 59 missiles cannot be stopped by a single S-400 battery. But this would require flying in very low altitude and releasing a massive payload. Having in mind that the only aircraft capable of carrying is the Mirage 2000-5 mk2 of which 25 are in the Greek Inventory, a single mission to take off an S-400 battery would require almost all of the modernized Mirage aircraft. The big range of the Scalp-EG (more than 300 km, rumours say that can be 650 km) could make possible the launch from a safe location.
Also Greece has almost 120 SCALP-EG missiles in the HAF inventory.
The limiting factor here is the number of aircraft that can carry those missiles. If HAF can somehow increase that number it would be a great counter-weight to the S-400 threat. The easier way for HAF to supplement these numbers is the acquisition of used Mirage 2000-5 from other countries like the UAE (identical aircraft with Mk2 except the self-protection system) or Qatar (-5EDA capable of carrying Black Saheen which is a downgraded version of the SCALP-EG).
PS. Some Greek Defence Sites underestimate the S-400 capabilities due to the experience that the Greek Airforce had with the S-300PMU-1. This is rather misleading because a system which had never reached 100% Operation Capability (under Greek Service) due to the lack of Follow On Support Deal would not operate at its full potential. Also S-300 PMU-1 is a system developed in the early 90s. S-400 missile System is deployed nowadays. Almost a quarter of Century of evolution…