Growlers for Growlers

The suggestion that the US could acquire two S-400 systems from Turkey has been unsurprisingly opposed by Russia. Such an acquisition could yield the US and her allies a treasure trove of intelligence.

A mooted plan for the US to buy S-400 SAM systems from Turkey could prompt a ELINT bonanza.

Senator John Thune, a Republican Senator from South Dakota has proposed that the US purchase the Almaz-Antey S-400 (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) long-range/high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems that Turkey procured from Russia.

In 2017 Turkey procured two S-400 systems, a total of four battalions, for $2.4 billion with deliveries commencing in 2019. This threw a spanner in the works of plans by the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK/Turkish Air Force) to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning-II combat aircraft.

A total of 120 aircraft were expected to be acquired before the acquisition was cancelled by the administration of President Donald Trump in July 2019. The administration was concerned that the S-400’s sensors, principally its ground-based air defence and fire control radars, could collect sensitive information regarding the F-35A’s radar cross section and electromagnetic emissions.

The cancellation of the acquisition resulted in the four THK F-35As delivered to Luke airbase, Arizona, being rerolled to furnish the US Air Force.

Nyet from Moscow

Mr. Thune suggested that the US acquisition of both S-400 systems would remove them from Turkey and hence THK control allowing F-35A deliveries to continue. Russian lawmakers protested the proposal with Leonid Slutsky, chair of the Russian Duma (parliament) committee on international affairs, condemning Mr. Thune’s proposal as “unprincipled and cynical.”

It seems unlikely that such a purchase will occur in the near term. Such a move by Ankara would make Moscow hopping mad. Yet such a purchase by the US would offer serious benefits.

Intelligent Decision

Aside from resuming F-35A deliveries to Turkey, it would give the United States Air Force, and US armed forces in general, once of the world’s most advanced air defence systems to pour over at their leisure.

The US Department of Defence already possesses a smorgasbord of Soviet-era SAMs and ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground-controlled interception radars. These have been sourced from a myriad of ex-Warsaw Pact countries. They are routinely used to provide realistic threats during US-based international air exercises like Red Flag.

The US Navy and USAF are both overhauling their Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (S/DEAD) postures. The US Navy is deploying the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare and S/DEAD aircraft, along with Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radar Guided Missile, a  variant of the venerable AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radar Missile) family. The US Air Force is optimising the F-35A to perform S/DEAD using Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88F HCS (HARM Control System) AGM-88 variant.

US and allied aircraft operating over Syria have flown in airspace thought to be protected by the S-400. Russia has deployed two systems to the northwest of the country since 2015.

However, there is doubt in some quarters of the NATO electronic warfare community as to whether either system has been activated in full for fear that Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) regarding their 91N6 (NATO reporting name Big Bird) S-band (2.3 gigahertz/GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) and 96L6E (NATO reporting name Cheese Board) C-band (5.25GHz to 5.925GHz) early warning and target acquisition radar could be hoovered up by US and NATO ELINT aircraft.

For all intents and purposes much of the S-400’s design and capabilities remain a mystery. No wonder Moscow is nervous about NATO getting its hands on a couple.

Armenia – Air Defence Agreement Moves Forward

ChainHomeHigh is deep in production for the rest of this week, and early next week. However, news-hungry radar and air defence fans can find an interesting story here ( regarding Russia’s creation of a regional air defence system with Armenia.

Russia – Surok Keeps Watch

Russia’s Radio Technical and Information (RTI) Systems Joint Stock Company has unveiled the ‘Surok’ (‘Marmot’) air surveillance radar.

The Surok is designed to detect and track targets using a small mobile radar. In terms of performance, it is reportedly capable of detecting and tracking a target flying at 656ft (200 metres) altitude at a distance of twelve kilometres (6.4 nautical miles). Targets flying at 3,280ft (1,000m) altitude can be detected at 20km (10.7nm), and those flying at 5,000m (16,404ft) at 50km (26.9nm) range.

The rationale behind Surok’s development was to design a mobile radar that provides 360º protection for critical infrastructure. Although there are several, deployable military products which can perform such a function, RTI Systems’ radar intends to provide this protection using a lower-cost approach.

Russia: Second Panstir-S Batch By Year End

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported on 19th September that the country’s air defence force will receive its second batch of Pantsir-S1 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-22 Greyhound’) combined Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) and medium-range Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) platforms from the KBP Instrument Design Bureau by the end of the year.

This second batch will supplement the first batch of ten systems delivered to Russian forces in 2011.

The Pantsir-S1 is being procured to provide short-to-medium range ground-based air defence for the Almaz/Antei S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler’) medium-to-high altitude SAM systems being procured by Russia.

The Pantsir-S1 will also replace the tracked 2K22M/M1 Tunguska (NATO reporting name ‘SA-19 Grison’) combined AAA/SAM systems which Russia currently has in service to perform air defence against low-flying aircraft and missiles.

Russia plans to eventually procure up to 100 Pantsir-S1 systems as reported in the February edition of ChainHomeHigh.

Russia – New Naval Air Defence System?

According to reports from Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency on 31st August, the country’s Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) specialists Almaz-Antey is involved in developing a new high-altitude naval air defence system.

The company is reportedly involved in the design of a ship-based SAM capable of performing; “missile and space defence,” according to the report. The design work on this SAM system seems to be occurring alongside plans announced earlier this year by Roman Trotsenko, President of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, to begin the construction of six nuclear-powered air defence destroyers in 2016.

The missile system which Almaz-Antey is expected to develop for these ships may be closely modelled on the S-500 ‘Samorerzhets’ ground-based high-altitude SAM system which is being supplied to the Russian Air Force. S-500 deliveries to the Russian Air Force are expected to commence from 2013, as reported in the July edition of ChainHomeHigh.

The S-500’s range is thought to be in the region of 600km (323nm), with an interception altitude of 40km (21.5nm). The weapon has been designed to intercept Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, and this would seemingly enable it to meet the requirements of this proposed sea-based air defence system.

S-400 U-Turn?

Russia has said that it will now commence exports of S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name ‘SA-21 Growler’) Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) batteries to China from 2017.

It was reported by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti on 15th July that the Chinese will be the first export clients for a missile system which Russia has previously said would not be exported.

This news appears to contradict information released in late May, and reported in ChainHomeHigh, that Moscow would not sell S-400 systems to Beijing amid concerns that the weapons system could be reversed-engineered and copied by Chinese manufacturers.

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