Last month, Ankara reportedly asked the US to deploy Patriot batteries on Turkey’s southern border following an escalation of tensions in Syria’s Idlib. Here’s a closer look at what could finally become Turkey’s missile system of choice given Ankara’s recent purchase of the Russian-made S-400 Triumf missile systems.
Ankara’s move on the Patriot border deployment will most likely raise many eyebrows given the performance characteristics of these two missile defence systems. The S-400 detects an enemy at a distance of up to 600 kilometres and tracks up to 300 targets simultaneously, while the Patriot operates at a distance of no more than 120 kilometres.
In terms of firing range, the Triumf also gets the better of the Patriot because the figures stand at 250 kilometres and 100 kilometres, respectively. The Russian system is capable of destroying a target moving at a speed of 4,800 metres per second, namely, even hypersonic missiles, something that is not the case with the Patriot, which hits objects flying at a speed of 2,500 metres per second.
What’s more, neither a rocket nor a helicopter will escape from the Triumf even at a minimum height, because the missile system will recognise and destroy a target located one hundred metres above the ground. In contrast, the Patriot is only effective at an altitude of 500 metres or higher and the system is not capable of detecting targets that move below this threshold.
Unlike its American competitor, the Triumf’s armaments include advanced ultra-manoeuvrable guided missiles as well as ultra-long-range missiles for the destruction of AWACS (airborne early warning and control) and electronic warfare aircraft, as well as command posts, along with ballistic and hypersonic missiles.
The another one of the Russian system’s advantages pertains to its ability to smoothly operate under conditions of intense electronic counter measures aimed at forcing enemy air defences to track fake targets. Despite its sophisticated characteristics, the Triumf is reportedly at least three times cheaper than the Patriot in terms of maintenance.
It seems that the Patriot only prevails over the Triumf when it comes to experience in combat, including Operation Desert Storm during the 1991 Gulf War between the US-led coalition and Iraq.
However, this experience did not prove to be that successful for the American system, which managed to intercept only 46 out of 130 Iraqi missiles. A similar failure occurred in September 2019, when the Patriots were unable to prevent cruise missiles and drones from staging massive strikes on Saudi oil facilities.
Apart from Turkey, the S-400, which is touted by both Russian and foreign experts as one of the world’s best anti-aircraft systems, could be purchased by India and Iraq, as New Delhi earlier signalled its readiness to acquire at least five S-400 batteries.
Pentagon: Turkey Won’t Get Patriot System Unless It Returns S-400 to Russia
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, said earlier this month that the Triumf systems will enter service in Turkey already in April, saying that the Turkish military is “continuing to learn to work with them”.
Washington has repeatedly lambasted Ankara over its move to buy the S-400s, which the US claims are incompatible with NATO security standards and might stop the White House from deciding on supplying Patriots to Turkey.
In September 2019, Erdogan signalled Turkey’s readiness to purchase the US missile defence systems along with the Russian S-400s. The statement, however, was followed by US Defence Department spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman telling reporters earlier this year that “Turkey is not going to receive a Patriot battery [of missile interceptors] unless it returns the S-400 [to Russia]”.
Erdogan, for his part, said at the time that the US had softened its stance on Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence systems and reduced its demands to asking Ankara not to put the weapon in active service.