What Russian S-400 missile system is capable of? This question has been debated so much in US Military and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that it has become a maxim — S-400 is dangerous for sure. The Russian S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) is an anti-air missile system. Due to S-400’s gigantic outlook and transporter erector launchers (TEL), some onlookers mistake it for a ballistic or cruise missile. S-400 missile system is the true display of Russian military and technological prowess especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the contemporary world where emerging threats are of hybrid nature, the need for air defence and anti-air systems has grown — S-400 can be regarded as the most appropriate answer to those threats. The S-400 aka SA-21 has its history in S-25 aka SA-2 Guideline, the latter gained international prominence when on May 1, 1961, it shot down an American U-2 Ladybird while conducting aerial reconnaissance over the Soviet Union flew from Peshawar, Pakistan — commonly known as the U-2 Incident. Francis Gary Powers — the pilot of U-2 was directed to swallow a pill to kill him instantly to avoid being captured and interrogated; nevertheless, post-incident analysis suggested that the missile struck him in such a speedy manner that he could not take his own life and the aircraft was shot down. Consequently, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev benefitted from diplomatic gains while maligning the US’ secret reconnaissance programs. S-400 missile system carries the same legacy as its predecessors. S-400 is a combination of several components which combine together while each unit performs a specialized role in the smooth operation of the entire missile system. S-400 has a couple of radars like 91N6E Battle Management Radar, 92N6E Engagement and Fire Control Radar, 55K6E Mobile Command Post, 96L6E Target Acquisition Radar and 40V6MR Mobile Mast System along with transporter erector launchers (TEL) having four missiles loaded on each launcher. It is interesting that all the components of S-400 missile system are self propelled wheeled vehicles which add significant mobility, flexibility and manoeuvrability to the system in its rapid movement and deployment. The radar of S-400 has the capability to detect 300 targets simultaneously and can engage 36 targets using 9 launchers. Amazingly, the radars can detect targets up to the range of 600 km and can engage targets up to 400 km. The radars are capable of withstanding intense electronic warfare and jamming due to enhanced electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). S-400 has four different kinds of missiles having different ranges and warheads so that the right kind of missile is fired depending on the nature and range of the target. The missiles have active radar guidance which means that they have an on-board radar to enhance the kill probability. The missiles can reach the maximum altitude of 30 km — capable enough to intercept ballistic missiles. Once the mobile ground radars acquire the target and guide the missile in that direction, the missile guides itself and reaches the target to intercept and destroy it. The missiles have Thrust Vectoring Control (TVC) which enhances the manoeuvrability of the missile while exploiting the vulnerability of the target and allows the missile to turn; consequently, making it more agile. The most striking feature of the missiles is its speed which is around Mach 14 — almost 4.7 km/s. This surprising speed puts the target in a much difficult position to take evasive man oeuvres. The US’ Tomahawk cruise missile strike against Syrian targets in April 2017, can be used as an example since Russian news outlet RT reported that out of 59 fired Tomahawks only 23 reached Syrian airfields While keeping in view the capabilities of S-400, one question arises that whether it is capable of integrating into the wider command and control system of the other Russian Armed Forces? The answer is yes. S-400 is compatible even with the Western defence equipment dominated armed forces. It can be seen that Turkey a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member has shown keen interest in buying S-400 and integrating it into its defence mechanism. Similarly, India and Saudi Arabia have also want to buy S-400. The acquisition of S-400 by India is surely to cast a devastating effect on the operational security of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. The deployment of S-400 in Syria in November 2015, significantly put the Allied Air Forces out of action. S-400 can well intercept terrain-hugging low-flying cruise missiles. The US’ Tomahawk cruise missile strike against Syrian targets in April 2017, can be used as an example since Russian news outlet RT reported that out of 59 fired Tomahawks only 23 reached Syrian airfields. The rest were shot down by Russians using the S-400 missile system. S-400 stands tall and is the most advanced anti-air missile system available in the defence market today, even surpassing its many Western counterparts such as MIM-104 Patriot and its latest version Patriot Advanced Capability-3. American Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) is a dedicated mobile anti-ballistic missile system; nevertheless, THAAD primarily relies on its kinetic energy kill vehicle to intercept the incoming threat most probably in the terminal phase and lacks a warhead. Similarly, the US’ Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) is another ballistic missile defence system and its Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) uses its kinetic energy to kill the incoming missile in the midcourse phase. It is noticeable that Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Launch Vehicles (MIRVs) and Manoeuvrable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) are such instruments which are specifically designed to evade such systems or at least to reduce the kill probability of ballistic missile defence systems. The European defence equipment manufacturer MBDA’s Aster 15 and 30 are considerable anti-air systems and Israeli and Chinese surface to air missile systems are impressive; however, they do not match S-400 in terms of target acquisition radar, technology, range, altitude, electronic warfare capabilities and speed. The writer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, November 1st 2018.