Russia allegedly lost its most powerful air defense system, the S-400, in Ukraine

That's been the story of Russian agression so far.
Ameya Paleja
The S-400 Triumf
The S-400 Triumf

DarthArt/iStock 

Russian troops have lost one of their most advanced air defense systems, the S-400 'Triumf', after it was hit by a Ukrainian rocket, Defense Blog reported. The incident came to light not from official Russian agencies but from an obituary printed for a fallen soldier.

On the brink of entering its ninth month, the conflict in Ukraine has seen the loss of human lives in both uniforms. The two sides have disagreed on the exact numbers, but rarely does an obituary also confirm the loss of an advanced piece of military equipment that has not made it to the news, in this case, an advanced air defense system.

What do we know about the S-400?

The S-400 is a long-range, surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) developed by Russia. It is the successor to the S-300, which was introduced during the Soviet era and makes multiple advancements to counter the new threats of today's warfare.

The S-400 is designed to take down a wide spectrum of aerial threats ranging from stealth aircraft to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise, as well as ballistic missiles. The S-400 is a mobile launch system that can deploy up to four types of missiles to counter threats that go well beyond visual range (BVR).

It has a range of nearly 250 miles (400 km) while its radar systems are capable of scanning targets in the range of 370 miles (600 km) and engaging with up to 80 targets at a time.

Russia allegedly lost its most powerful air defense system, the S-400, in Ukraine
S-400 Triumf

The Achilles heel of the S-400

According to a post on the page of the RAND Corporation, a research organization based in the U.S., the S-400 can be classified as a high-performance high-altitude missile aerospace defense system (HIMADS) but is not without its limitations.

The radar is a critical component of the system's detection capabilities and when deployed at ground level can drastically shrink the range to nothing beyond the horizon. To avoid this, the radars need to be placed on tall masts. However, an even better system would be to place them on airborne warning and control aircraft systems (AWACS) or aerostats – balloons sent to high altitudes but that are still tethered to the ground.

Even in the presence of these warning systems, an asset like the S-400 needs to be tightly integrated in line with military strategy. Otherwise, it is easy to overwhelm the system with low-altitude cruise missiles, rendering the expensive system useless.

In the case of the recent Russian loss, the fallen soldier was a member of the radar crew on the S-400 and on combat duty in the ongoing conflict. However, the combat vehicle was struck directly by a hit from a rocket launcher, Defense Blog said in its report, citing the obituary of the soldier.

In July, Russia lost a S-300 air defense system in the conflict, Newsweek had reported, while earlier this week, a Russian fighter allegedly on a training sortie near Ukraine crashed into a residential building, claiming the lives of its own civilians.

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