The Chinese edition of Sohu made a publication, the authors of which said that Russia intentionally hides the genuine capabilities of the S-400 air defense systems to detect and intercept “invisible aircraft.” At the same time, the “unique characteristics” of the F-35 American fighter-bomber are being questioned.
Sohu quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that at least six F-35 fighters were spotted near the Iranian border after a murder of General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. About how they managed to detect the “invisible”, Lavrov did not report. But at the same time, the use of radars of the Russian S-400 complexes located in Syria should be recognized as the most realistic explanation for this phenomenon.
I must say that Sohu is not embarrassed by the fact that the distance between the anti-aircraft missile systems and the Iranian border exceeds the range of the 91N6E early warning radar. The radar, according to the disclosed characteristics, is able to detect a large fourth-generation aircraft no further than 600 kilometers away. And the S-400s transferred to the Syrian army were removed from Iran at a distance of 700 kilometers. As for the complex installed at the Russian military base Khmeimim, it is even further.
But these circumstances do not bother the authors of the publication, they are sure that Russia, for reasons of secrecy, does not disclose the true characteristics of the S-400. That is, here we are talking not only about the record maximum range of the radar, but also about the unique ability to track airborne objects with a small and ultra-small effective dispersion area (EPR), which are “invisible aircraft”.
Actually, the Americans do not deny such “secret” capabilities of the S-400. Sohu refers to a Pentagon spokesman who said: “The Russians are hiding the tactical and technical characteristics of their S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems.” At the same time, in the USA, in fact, recognizing the visibility of the “invisible aircraft” for the Russian system, they argue that the ability to detect F-35 fighters does not mean the possibility for the S-400 to shoot them down. At the same time, they are also threatening: “In such a situation, the F-35 will destroy the S-400 air defense system, using the electronic jamming system.” Which is quite ridiculous, since the powerful Triumph with interference generation is much better.
Of course, at a distance of 700 kilometers the S-400 is not able to bring down any aircraft, even the military transport Hercules, because the range of the most powerful Triumph missile does not exceed 400 kilometers. F-35 may become vulnerable if it enters the rocket fire zone.
A closer look at the history of the “six invisibles” near the Iranian border makes it clear that finding them for the current state of radar technology is a completely solvable task.
The simplest solution to the problem, which does not require technical tricks, is based on the fact that an aircraft built using stealth technology, depending on the angle, has a different ESR value. It is minimal only in the frontal plane, that is, when the radar beam shines strictly “on the forehead” of the fighter. And it’s a completely different matter when the fighter is visible from the side, with this position the EPR increases significantly. The situation with the “six invisibles” was such that, being at a considerable distance, the aircraft during maneuvering could not help showing the S-400 radar their side projections.
Another method for detecting stealth aircraft is based on the fact that the geometry of their glider is such that they reflect the irradiating beam of the locator to the sides, as if shaking it off. The detection efficiency is significantly increased if the radiating and receiving radar antennas are separated in space. True, in technical terms, this is not so easy to realize, if only because the operation of the antennas must be synchronized with a high degree of accuracy.
The stealth technologies of “invisible aircraft, which include fifth-generation fighters,” are such that they significantly reduce the EPR in the centimeter wavelength range. It is in this range that all airborne radars installed on airplanes work. However, the picture changes when moving to the decimeter range and especially to the meter meter.
In these ranges, for invisible ground-based radars, they practically do not differ from fourth-generation aircraft, in which the EPR is slightly reduced due to the use of only wave-absorbing coatings.
True, when using ranges of longer waves, the accuracy of determining the target decreases. In the centimeter range, a missile is aimed at the target, the coordinates of which are precisely determined, and its launch is carried out.
With an approximate determination of the coordinates by the radar, launch into the “target location area” is possible. At the same time, the homing head must accurately bring the missile to the target. Moreover, the infrared seeker, since the “invisible” visibility in the infrared range is higher than in the radar. It is also possible to gradually tune the radar frequency in the direction of decreasing wavelength as the aircraft approaches. A missile can be launched at a time when the accuracy of determining the coordinates of the target will be sufficient to intercept it.
All these points are undoubtedly taken into account by the designers of the Almaz-Antey concern, who developed the S-400 and the more advanced S-500 Prometheus air defense system, which is being prepared for adoption.
As for the detection of aircraft, any, not only “invisible”, then no air defense system relies on several air defense systems, each of which protects its object or its territory. Airborne reconnaissance is performed by ground-based radars, which belong to the radio engineering forces. Moreover, they are not only focused on directions that are dangerous with respect to air raids, but are also dispersed in such a way that an inextricable radar field is formed.
So, as for the “six invisibles,” the Syrian air defense forces could well detect them, since they have such capabilities. In various historical periods, including most recently, the Soviet Union, and then Russia, delivered to this country a considerable number of radar stations. The most advanced of them – mobile three-coordinate radar 36D6, operating in the decimeter range.
This is still a Soviet development, but the station is quite efficient, able to work in conditions of interference. It has a circular view, a view of the elevation from 0-30 degrees. The maximum detection range is 300 km. The accuracy of determining the coordinates in azimuth is 15 minutes, in range – 100 m, in height – 400 m. At the same time, the radar accompanies up to 150 objects.
So these stations, located on the eastern border of Syria, could very well be found by fighters near Iran.
The Russian radio engineering troops are now using new generation radars. The latest mobile three-coordinate decimeter range radar – 59N6-E “Protivnik-GE”. Its maximum range reaches 400 km. Objects with EPR less than 0.1 sq.m. (like cruise missiles and “invisible fighters”) discovers at a distance of 200 km, 1.5 sq.m. – 340 km. Its accuracy is sufficient to give target designation to anti-aircraft missile systems. The speed of the followed targets can reach 7 M.
In the meter wavelength range, a whole family of mobile radars “Nebo” operates, it also includes the station “Niobiy”. Each station has its own characteristics. But they all have a large detection range of subtle and small targets.
There are also portable radars designed to determine the air situation in the coverage area of a tactical unit. Such is the three-coordinate “Garmon” of the decimeter wave range. It detects planes, helicopters and drones, determines their coordinates and transfers the received information to the complexes of automated air defense control systems. It can also be used to illuminate targets when guided munitions are aimed at them.
The radar is located in three containers of 30 kg each. It unfolds in 5 minutes. An antenna array measuring 120 × 80 cm is installed on the tripod. An electronic unit and a power supply unit providing power of 800 W are connected. The GLONASS signal determines the location of the radar, after which the “Garmon” is ready for use. Data is displayed on the operator’s display, and also transmitted over the air to the gearbox.
The radar provides all-round visibility with a range of up to 40 km. Target detection altitude – 10 km.