You don’t need sophisticated Aircraft to harm or attack someone. Missiles can execute the same havoc as aircraft and unlike aircraft or bombers they are not costly, even small nations can afford them. Somehow if they are mounted with bio, chemical or god forbid with nuke payloads then? What? Imagine devastation. Hence it becomes crucial for nations to develop or acquire Missile Defence Systems and to a larger extent if surrounded by hostile neighbours or in contested regions then it is vital to possess Air Defence Systems.

S-400 Triumf Air Defence systems don’t need any introduction, it’s been or in the hot news. Many institutions have termed it as the Best Air Defence System available. The aura of the S-400 is such that even Turkey a NATO member has acquired it. There were some political instances as well within Turkey, such as attempts of coup and western critics of Turkish govt actions in Syria led it to progress ahead with the Russian S-400 system. The United States had offered MIM patriot systems to turkey, but these systems are nowhere close to the S-400 – also remember that how Patriot systems failed to respond to the drone attacks in Saudi Arabia.

Experts have also pointed out that S-400 has not been seen in a real-world scenario raising doubts about its efficiency. To have a better argument then why not think that even F-35 Aircraft have not seen a real-world application except targeting Terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, (Not in highly protected air defence zones). Remember that S-400 and F-35 are each other’s counter systems. And S-400 is the prime rationale behind the U.S. decision to restrict access of F-35s to Turkey. Also, to note that S-400 is way cheaper than the western offering or counterparts. Whatever it is, you cannot deny the fact that the S-400 is one of the highly revered systems.

There are many good missile defence systems or anti-aircraft missiles systems in the world, India operates several different types of these systems and has its ballistic missile defence program also, where it has successfully tested the interceptors. In my opinion, the Closest competition to the S-400 is American THAAD. Both S-400 and THAAD systems were developed around the 1990s, but their purpose is different. THAAD was a newly developed system to address the shortcomings noted during the gulf war whereas S-400 is highly upgraded from the previous S-300.

THAAD is an anti-missile system by Lockheed Martin.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) as the name indicates is designed to engage ballistic missiles at high altitudes. THAAD missiles intercept incoming missiles at their terminal phase. It employs the hit-to-kill method, which means it doesn’t carry any warhead to neutralize the threat, it destroys the incoming projectile with high impact energy, it is specifically designed to prevent thermo-nuclear reactions and minimize payloads effects. A unit of THAAD system consists of typically 6-8 Launch vehicles with each carrying 8 missiles, 2 operational or command vehicles, and AN/TPY-2 ground radar. THAAD missiles have a 200km range and 150km as high. Also, it has interoperability with NATO systems.

S-400 Triumf is an air defence system by Almaz-Antey

A unit of S-400 system consists of 6-8 vehicles with each carrying 4 missiles, 2 radar (+1 optional) vehicles (1 x 92N6E and 1 x 91N6E – optional: high altitude radar), and 1 command vehicle. It is capable of intercepting targets at long ranges, its missiles use proximity fuze to destroy targets, it can fire 3 types of missiles and ranges from 400km to 40km. Hence S-400 creates a kind of layered defence system. It is a quick reactive and highly mobile platform.


THAAD employs the best radar in its class if you remember after series of North Korean Missile tests, United States deployed THAAD in South Korea, which got China irked and there was a significant fall-out of diplomatic and trade relations between China and South Korea, which is obviously due to the AN/TPY-2 ground Radar. This ASEA radar has a range of 4,700 km, Since THAAD missiles engage the ballistic missile at its terminal phase So, it is necessary for a system like THAAD to track the missile from its launch. Therefore, China is worried and opposing the deployment, because it thinks it is deployed to monitor Chinese activities. The radar of S-400 is comparatively behind AN/TPY-2 radar.

But S-400 has other qualities that makes it a distinct system. Unlike THAAD which is only anti-missile system at high altitudes, S-400 can engage a wide variety of aerial threats such as fighter jets, ballistic missiles, UAV’s, etc. THAAD can fire only one type of missile whereas S-400 can fire 3 types of missiles on its own by interpreting the type of threat. It can destroy the targets at longer distances compared to THAAD, S-400 has high mobility than THAAD. Overall the S-400 packs the punch of two systems viz. Patriot and THAAD.

Don’t assume that United states can’t defend any aerial threats, it has other air defense systems as well with wide variety of Surface-to-Air-Missiles. Systems such as Aegis, Aegis BMD, SeaRAM, NASAMS, etc. forms a layered defense system, apart from its systems, it also has interoperability with NATO allies’ systems with detection from sea, airborne radars and satellites as well, thus making it protected under dense web of layers. Even Russia has combination of long range, medium and point air defence systems such as S-300VM, S-300PS, S-350E, Buk, Tor, Pantsir, Osaak, 2k22 tunguska etc.

The face-off between S-400 and THAAD is likely to be around east china sea, because China deploys S-400 on its side and U.S. THAAD on South Korea, keep a close eye on this region to know which system is efficient either by its deterrence or by actual engagement, let’s not wish the latter option. Coming to air defence systems,everynation cannot afford to have layered air defence systems especially considering operational and maintenance costs, So,if any third country wants to acquire it will consider a single system not entire complex of systems. So as a standalone unit S-400 offers more than its competitors and is presently best air defence system in the world.(Until any new generation air defence systems kicks in)

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Article by DINESH BEHARA , cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or