Dogfight! American THAAD vs. the Russian S-400/S-500 air defense missile systems

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Russian air defense systems S-400 and S-500 are advertised in the press and are in demand in many countries. However, are they effective? Experts wanted to answer this question.

Read more: Top 5 best anti-aircraft missile systems in the World

The American THAAD air defense system was taken as an object for comparison. So, the first parameter was the maximum range. At the S-500 it is 400 kilometers. A similar indicator for Ted and S-400 is at the level of 250 km.

The next component is the detection range of enemy objects. The THAAD has a thousand kilometers. S-500 and S-400 are more modest distances – 800 and 600 km. After all, the sooner the target is discovered, the more time is left for a decision.

The situation is different with subtle goals. THAAD can recognize them at a distance of 700 km. The S-500 and S-400 have a more modest indicator: 420 and 400 kilometers.

The western model has superiority and maximum flight altitude. The THAAD has 200 kilometers. At the S-500 it is 2 times less. In turn, the S-400 is able to boast a modest 30 km.

However, the S-500 with 7200 m/s is the leader in terms of interception speed. Next come the THAAD (5400 m/s) and the S-400 (4800 m/s).

In terms of ballistic missiles, the THAAD is again ahead with a distance of 250 km. The S-500 and S-400 range is 180 and 40 kilometers.

From this we can conclude that the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense systems are not inferior to Russian-made. In some respects, superiority is even observed.

Some experts argue that such a comparison is impossible, as it is two different in functionality and purpose missile systems

This comparison is not correct, since we are talking about systems with different specializations, Russian and Amercian military experts said.

Read more: Lockheed’s THAAD System Successfully Intercepted a Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Target

The American THAAD system (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is a mobile land-based missile defense system designed for high-altitude atmospheric destruction of medium-range ballistic missiles.

At the same time, the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system is designed primarily for hitting aerodynamic targets (aircraft, helicopters, drones, cruise missiles), its ability to combat ballistic targets is limited in range and height.

At the same time, of course, the Russian system is more universal. THAAD’s capabilities in the fight against maneuverable targets and aircraft are minimal, while using such a missile defense system would be tantamount to hammering nails, especially considering the cost of US missile defense.

The THAAD mobile ground-based missile defense system, designed for high-altitude transatmospheric interception of medium-range missiles while creating a zonal missile defense system in a theater of operations, has been developed in the United States since 1992.

The system developer is Lockheed Martin Corporation. The cost of R&D to create an anti-ballistic missile system is estimated at about $ 15 billion.

The second important difference between THAAD and S-400 is the way to hit the target. An American rocket hits the target with kinetic impact, that is, it hits the rocket itself.

Its warhead is a highly maneuverable interceptor. It is a technically sophisticated device that searches for, captures, and hits a target using only the kinetic energy of a high-speed impact.

One of the main features of this interceptor is the gyrostabilized multispectral infrared homing head (IR-GOS). In addition to the IR-GOS, the THAAD single-stage missile interceptor is equipped with a command-inertial control system, an electric power source, a computer, and its own propulsion system for maneuvering and orientation.

Read more: Turkey has tested Russia’s S-400 missile system to detect F-22s and F-35s

At the same time, anti-aircraft missiles of the Russian S-400 Triumph air defense system hit air targets due to a cloud of fragments that form after the warhead of a missile is detonated in the immediate vicinity of the target.

It is also worth noting that the S-400 can fire at 360 degrees, while THAAD has a limited firing range. For example, Russian 9M96E and 9M96E2 anti-aircraft missiles, optimized to combat modern high-precision weapons, cruise missiles and ballistic targets, including inconspicuous ones, use a “cold” vertical launch.

Immediately before starting its marching engine, rockets are thrown out of the container to a height of more than 30 meters. After rising to this height, an anti-aircraft missile, using a gas-dynamic system, inclines toward a given target.

An important difference between the two complexes is also their radar. The American system has better vision. The detection range of the AN / TPY-2 radar is 1000 kilometers versus 600 kilometers for the S-400 complex.

The multifunctional AN / TPY-2 radar operates in the X-band and consists of 25,344 active PPM. This is a radar with an active phased array (AFAR). AFAR consists of active radiating elements, each of which consists of a radiating element and an active device (transceiver module – PPM).

A very high resolution and vigilance of the American radar is achieved by a huge amount of PPM and a sophisticated signal processing algorithm. At the same time, the American radar costs a pretty penny, the cost of an innovative radar can exceed $ 500 million.

Price may play a role. The cost of the S-400 division with 8 launchers is about $ 500 million. So in December 2017, the details of the contract for the supply of S-400 Triumph air defense systems to Turkey became known.

Ankara should receive 4 S-400 divisions for a total of about $ 2.5 billion. At the same time, the Pentagon’s Defense Cooperation and Security Directorate announced that the deal with Saudi Arabia for the supply of THAAD missile defense systems amounted to about $ 15 billion.

Read more: Russian S-500 missile systems will be able to destroy hypersonic and space targets

Under the contract, the kingdom will receive from the United States 44 launchers, 16 command posts, 7 radars, as well as 360 interceptor missiles for this complex.


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