The combat teams of the S-400 air defense systems belonging to the Baltic Fleet have carried out military drills in Russia’s Kaliningrad Region, reported TASS, citing the press statement from Baltic Fleet.
The focus of the exercises was to enhance their capabilities in safeguarding against enemy air attacks, the Fleet’s press office announced on March 28.
The drill involved a surface-to-air missile regiment of the Fleet’s air defense formation, with teams operating the S-400 Triumf systems practicing response strategies upon receiving an alert regarding a notional airspace violation by an enemy aircraft.
As per a statement released by the press office, the role of the adversary aircraft was played by Su-27 fighter jets from a naval aviation unit of the Fleet during the exercise.
Upon receiving the alert about the intruders, the anti-aircraft gunners deployed launchers and proceeded to detect, identify, and track training targets before locking onto them with the S-400 air defense systems, the statement explained.
During the final phase of the drill, the teams operating the Triumf surface-to-air missile systems conducted training (electronic) missile launches. The data recording equipment verified that all specified aerial targets were effectively eliminated.
The military exercises were conducted in Russia’s westernmost exclave of the Kaliningrad Region. Due to its strategic location, the Kaliningrad region serves as the primary base for the Baltic Fleet and is, therefore, home to a substantial number of land and air forces.
These forces protect the Kaliningrad area and expand Russia’s shore-based air and sea denial capabilities, also known as A2/AD, into the Baltic Sea and the surrounding region.
For a long time, NATO military planners have been expressing concerns about the strategic location of Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.
Situated between Poland and Lithuania, this region of Russian territory, with a population of less than half a million people, has been an integral part of the security infrastructure of the Baltic Sea region.
Russia’s S-400 Missile System
The S-400 air defense system was first deployed in Kaliningrad in 2012 but did not receive much media attention then. Subsequently, the system appeared in 2016, along with Russia’s new Iskander short-range ballistic missile system.
Russian politicians regarded this move as a direct response to the expansion of the US missile shield into Eastern Europe.
However, it generated greater concern in the West due to the heightened tensions between NATO and Russia in the Baltic region since 2014. This period was marked by rapid escalation of military activities on both sides, raising fears of a potential conflict.
It is important to remember that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked renewed fears of a possible major conflict between Russia and NATO countries.
Furthermore, the latest exercises involving S-400 air defense systems may have given NATO countries a hint about the readiness of Russian forces operating in the vicinity.
Compared to its predecessor, the S-300, the S-400 air defense system significantly improves several key areas.
While the S-300 was explicitly designed as a long-range air defense system, the S-400 is equipped with four missiles capable of fulfilling a wide range of operational needs.
These include the long-range 40N6E missile with a range of 400 km, the long-range 48N6 with a range of 250 km, the medium-range 9M96E2 with a range of 120 km, and the short-range 9M96E with a range of 40 km.
Additionally, the S-400 has been designed to counter modern aerial combat threats, incorporating anti-ECM (electronic countermeasures) and anti-stealth capabilities.
The S-400 air defense system deployed in Kaliningrad can reach large parts of the NATO member states of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The system has been sold to several countries, including Belarus, India, Turkey, and China. Also, other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have expressed interest in acquiring it.
The S-400 is categorized as a high-altitude missile defense system with superior performance but still has some drawbacks.
The radar plays a crucial role in detecting targets, but its range is significantly limited when installed on the ground, and it cannot detect targets beyond the horizon. According to RAND Corporation, radars must be placed on tall structures to overcome this issue.
The S-400 can become operational in less than five minutes and destroy up to 16 aerial targets simultaneously. In rare circumstances, the S-400 surface-to-air missile system can also be used against ground and naval targets.
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