S-400 Gets Better
Russia continues to develop and test new versions of its most powerful anti-aircraft missile, the S-400 (also known as the SA-20, Growler or Triumf). Particular attention is being paid to electronic countermeasures that the Americans might have, or be developing. Eighteen months ago, Russia put its first S-400a into service when a S-400 battalion (eight launchers, each with four missiles, plus a control center and radar) officially became operational outside Moscow. A second battalion was deployed in the same area this year. Belarus is also getting the S-400 from Russia. This system is similar to the U.S. Patriot, and is expensive. Belarus is broke, but is a close ally of Russia, and will apparently get a good terms and a low price. This will also provide at least one export customer. Russia is unsure if they want to export S-400 right away, but they do want to deploy the S-400 system where it will do the most good, and pro-Russian Belarus is a good place to put the missiles. The S-400 missiles weigh 1.8 tons each and are 26 feet long and about 20 inches in diameter. The missiles have a range of some 400 kilometers, and can hit targets as high as 100,000 feet. The missile has a 320 pound warhead. The target acquisition radar has a range of 700 kilometers. The S-400 has over five times the range of the U.S. Patriot, weighs twice as much and claims the ability to detect stealthy aircraft. The S-400 also has an anti-missile capability, which is limited to shorter range (3,500 kilometers) ballistic missiles. That would mean a warhead coming in at about 5,000 meters a second (the longer the range of a ballistic missile, the higher its re-entry speed.) The S-400 system actually has two missiles, one of them being a smaller, shorter range (120 kilometers) one. The S-400 has no combat experience, but U.S. intelligence believes that the tests these systems have undergone indicate it is a capable air defense weapon. Just how capable won't be known until it actually gets used in combat. Russia plans to buy up to 200 launchers (each with four missiles) by 2015, and phase out the older S-300 and S-200 systems. This would mean deploying at least 18 battalions in the next six years, and perhaps more than twenty. The S-400 is sometimes described as an improved version of the S-300. Basically, it is. This is how Russia prefers to develop weapons, making incremental improvements on a basic design, and doing so for decades if the system continues to be successful.
Russia's S-400 Air Defense System May be World's Best
Russia is testing a new missile for its formidable S-400 Triumf air defense system that, if it performs according to its claimed specifications, is the most formidable long-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system in the world. Three-star Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, the commander of the Russian air force, announced testing plans for the new missile Tuesday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. RIA Novosti described the S-400 Triumf -- NATO designation SA-21 Growler -- as being "designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles) -- twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot and 2.5 times that of the S-300PMU-2." The report said the S-400 was projected to remain the backbone of Russia's theater air and missile defense systems at least until 2020, and possibly even until 2025. "The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units. At present, we are testing a new missile for this system," Zelin said, according to the report. RIA Novosti noted that in 2007, the Russian air force announced it had carried out effective live firing tests of the S-400 air defense complex at its Kapustin Yar firing range in south Russia's Astrakhan region. As previously reported in these columns, the Russian air force already has put into operational service a battalion of its first missile regiment armed with the S-400 to defend the Russian capital, Moscow, and its surrounding regions. The S-400 Triumf system is claimed to have the capability to intercept "stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers per second (10,800 mph)," RIA Novosti reported. The report said a regular S-400 battalion operates at least eight launchers with 32 missiles. The Russian government has approved funding for a state arms procurement program to produce 18 such battalions with a total arsenal of 576 missiles by 2015, it said.
In other news:
Russia to Overhaul its Most Famous Army Divisions
The Russian Defense Ministry is moving to disband the Moscow Military District's 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motorized Rifle Division and 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, and to convert them into four brigades. Both divisions now have 12,000 to 14,000 officers and men. The four brigades will have 50% more personnel, or between 18,000 and 20,000 officers and men. This makes up for 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers per brigade. Other army divisions will also be converted into brigades. Unfortunately, brigade level tables of organization, as well as the organization of their battalions, companies and platoons, are not yet known. Moreover, it is unclear whether the new brigades will have infantry-heavy or tank-heavy battalions with light infantry regiment status, as some analysts predict. No plans for dividing divisional artillery and air defense units, for subordinating the brigades to tactical commands and for facilitating their cooperation with military district commanders have been published to date. In this situation, it would be imprudent to make any conjectures. This raises the issue of the military reform's openness. However, minimal publicity is essential. This is particularly true of plans to overhaul the Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions, which have a long and glorious history. The 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Tamanskaya Order of the October Revolution, Order of the Red Banner and Order of Suvorov Division named after Kalinin was established in the summer of 1940 as the 127th Rifle Division in Kharkov, Ukraine.
When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the division fought enemy forces in the first few months of the Great Patriotic War, and was renamed as the 2nd Guards Rifle Division in September 1941 together with several other Red Army units. The division subsequently took part in many large-scale military operations, was renamed as the Tamanskaya Division for its heroic exploits during the Novorossiisk-Taman operation and finished the war on April 17, 1945 on the Samland Peninsula in East Prussia. After the war, the division was converted into a motorized rifle division and deployed in the Moscow Region's Naro-Fominsk District. Its elements always took part in military parades on Red Square, helped to overthrow Lavrenty Beria, former chief of the dreaded Soviet secret police, in the summer of 1953 and were also involved in the abortive August 1991 coup against the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the October 1993 clashes between President Boris Yeltsin's supporters and the Russian parliament.
The 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner Tank Division named after Yury Andropov, which is also deployed in the Naro-Fominsk District, has an equally distinguished history. Formerly called the 17th Tank Corps, it was established in the spring of 1942 and renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Corps in 1943 for its exploits during the battle of the Don River. The corps fought in many other strategic operations and finished the war on May 9, 1945 on the outskirts of Prague. The Soviet tank force was overhauled in the fall of 1945; and the corps was renamed as the 4th Guards Tank Division. Just like the Tamanskaya Division, the Kantemirovskaya Division participated in Red Square parades. On September 8, 1946, when the U.S.S.R. celebrated Tanker Day, the entire division marched through Red Square. In 1991 and 1993, the division's elements were also deployed in Moscow. Its officers and men fought in both Chechen campaigns, and took part in various peacekeeping operations. The Tamanskaya and Kantemirovskaya divisions have a proud place in the Russian army's history. Their glorious traditions are the pillar of any great nation's army. The high command of the Russian armed forces has said the newly established brigades would retain their honorary names and banners. Hopefully, their banners and other regalia will not end up in museum collections.
Russian Carrier-Based Aircraft to Exercise in Greek Airspace
Deck-based aviation of Russia's heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will hold exercises in the Greek airspace in January, the Greek National Defense General Staff said on Friday. "The exercises will take place on January 3-4 and on January 8-10 southeast of Rhodes Island and on January 11 south of Crete," the General Staff said. The exercises will be held in international waters but the aircraft will fly in the Athens airspace, the General Staff said. Russia announced in 2007 that its Navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different regions of the world's oceans.