The US military claims it has carried out a simulated strike on a pair of S-400 missiles as part of the African Lion 2021 exercise.
The Russian air defense system is considered the most lethal SAM with speculation that it can even shoot down the most advanced F-35 stealth fighter.
The African Lion 2021 kicked off on June 7 with 7,800 troops in Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal and will continue till June 18. Last year’s exercise was canceled amid rising COVID-19 cases across the world.
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According to a report by The Drive, the US Army’s Southern European Task Force-Africa (SETAF-AF) conducted Command Post Exercise (CPX), a simulated wargame, in Morocco last week, in which two S-400 missiles were targeted.
The US Army Europe and Africa (AFRICOM) operate as a consolidated command overseeing operations in both continents.
The African Lion is an annual multinational military exercise conducted by AFRICOM and attached to US European Command’s DEFENDER series that holds counter military operations and training in North Africa and Southern Europe.
The aim of the series is to enhance the interoperability of the US, partner nations and regional organizations in order to contain regional instability, conduct peace operations, counter violent extremist organizations, maintain cross-border security and counter transnational threats, as per its website.
The highlights of the ongoing exercise include air maneuvers by bombers, fighters as well as aerial refueling alongside a naval gunfire exercise and a humanitarian civic assistance event in Morocco.
The US Sixth Fleet ships — USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross and expeditionary fast transport USNS Trenton — recently took part in the naval exercise across the Southern Mediterranean on June 13.
A Twitter handle, @kmldial70, shared the US Army’s video, claiming the targeted areas “were the Algerian 3rd and 4th military regions, the Americans named them’NEHONE’ and ‘ROWAND’.”
How S-400s Were ‘Knocked Out’
The US Army’s Southern European Task Force-Africa (SETAF-AF) has released a video of a Command Post Exercise (CPX) being run at a facility in Agadir, Morocco. “Two strikes were conducted against those two S-400s,” an officer is heard saying in the video.
the targeted areas were the algerian 3rd and 4th military regions ,the americans named them"NEHONE" and "ROWAND"(photo 2)
— kimo dial (@kmldial70) June 13, 2021
It is not known yet what assets the CPX participants used to carry out these simulated strikes on S-400 SAMs.
What Makes S-400 Special?
The S-400 Triumf air defense system (code-named SA-21 Growler by NATO) consists of long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAM) with a maximum range of 400 km and multiple launching elements. It is a key weapon in Russia’s anti-aircraft defense with a capacity to destroy fighter jets, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones.
One of the best air-defense systems in the world, it is also twice as cheap against its US parallel, Patriot-2, making it attractive and viable for export sales.
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The proliferation of S-400s puts the US and its NATO allies in a peculiar spot. Russia has been pushing exports since it operationalized the defense system in 2007 and many countries have shown interest.
India, China, Turkey and Belarus are leading in securing a deal for the advanced air defense system. While China received its batch of missiles in 2018, India is expected to receive its first delivery later this year.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Vietnam, and Iraq are among the countries that have held an informal or formal discussion on acquiring the missile system with their Russian counterparts, according to CNBC.
In 2017, Turkey inked a deal with Russia on these SAMs despite being a NATO member. After a public spat between Ankara and Washington, the latter imposed sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that prohibits countries from engaging in significant transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.
Turkey was also kicked out of the US’ F-35 fighter jet program over concerns that Moscow will get access to F-35 technology if Turkey integrates both Russian and American systems. However, Turkey remains undeterred in its position to order an additional set of weapons from Russia.
This resolve was reiterated in the recent Biden-Erdogan meet where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he informed US President Joe Biden that Ankara’s position on S-400 air defense systems remains unchanged.
Despite the state-of-the-art technology, the S-400 has not been “tested in a real, serious war situation,” according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The S-400s have been previously deployed in conflict zones of Syria, Crimea, and Russia’s Baltic enclave Kaliningrad but reports suggest the possibility of the missile deployment in Libya as well, which is in the middle of a gruesome civil war.
By targeting Russia’s prized possession, the US indirectly is challenging the efficiency of the missile itself in the hope to sway countries against buying Russian arms.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to market the cutting-edge defense system as its global share in arms exports continues to shrink with the U.S. replacing its spot.