The modern Russian military has made tremendous strides since the fall of the Soviet Empire - indeed it has gone on to surprise many-an-observer in the West with its latest developments. The country has long been a champion of a powerful air defense network and has keep investment in this sector strong resulting in systems such as the effective S-300 and improved 4th Generation S-400 "Triumf" mobile Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) series. The S-300 was introduced into the Soviet inventory in 1978 and remains a potent air defense contributor while the S-400 has been brought along as its evolved form since arriving in 2007. Both are long range systems with proven capabilities.
The S-400 system functions under the SA-21 "Growler" designation in NATO nomenclature. It is described as being twice as effective as previous SAM units of Russian origin and supports the firing of five different missile types.
Design of the S-400 is by the Almaz / Antei Concern of Air Defense with manufacture handled by the Fakel Machine-Building Design Bureau. The system encompasses a 6x6 wheeled heavy-duty military truck hauling a twin axle trailer containing the launcher unit. The launcher unit seats four large missiles which elevate to a vertical position when made ready for launch. The vehicle contains the entire crew aboard and serves as part of a Russian division. Work on the S-400 series began in the latter half of the 1990s though development proved slow and fraught with technological issues (understandable for such a complex product). Testing was undertaken before the end of the decade but the original missiles had a poor showing, delaying its service entry until the latter half of the 2000s. It has since become a Russian Army mainstay.
The S-400 is designed to fire off five different classes of missiles covering medium-range, long-range and "extreme-long-range". This has led to the development of at least three distinct missile types in the 9M96, 48N6 and 40N6 supporting the S-400 system. The 9M96 holds a range out to 120 kilometers while the 48N6 reaches out to 250km and the 40N6 out to 400km. Missile speeds span Mach 2.3 to Mach 6.2 depending on missile type in play.
Due to its wheeled arrangement, the S-400 missiles can be transported along roads easily enough, providing a harder target to track down and destroy (ala the Iraqi SCUD launchers of the Persian Gulf War). It is said to hold lethality against all manner of Western aircraft - from smaller cruise missiles and regular combat aircraft to larger bomber types and reportedly even those aircraft protected by stealth features. Off road travel is possible as well though speeds are decidedly reduced during such actions. Automation has made for quick response times in setting up the S-400.
The complete S-400 deployment scheme (as part of the S-400 battalion) involves the 5P85TE2 / 5P85SE2 wheeled launcher unit, the 55K6E mobile command post, the 91N6E "Big Bird" acquisition and battle management radar unit, the "Grave Stone" fire control radar system, the 96L6E all-altitude acquisition radar vehicle and the 40V6MR Mobile Mast System (MMS).
Following the downing of a Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer" fighter-bomber by Turkish air defenses near the Syrian border (resulting in the death of one pilot and recovery of the other) in November of 2015, the Russians moved on deploying their S-400 systems to the region. Its appearance has forced coalition air strikes to be put on hold for the time being. The missiles are also now featured on the Russian Navy's Kirov-class battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimov, expanding its air defense prowess considerably.
The S-400 system is under consideration by various military powers of the world including Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. South Korea, with the help of Russia, is developing a similar, local solution based on the S-400 design. Official operators are seen in Algeria, China, Kazakhstan, and - of course - Russia while deliveries to Belarus are scheduled for 2015 (the S-400 will officially become available for export to interested parties after 2015).
September 2017 - It was announced that Turkey is proceeding with plans to acquire the Russian S-400 system in a deal worth $2.5 billion USD.
May 2018 - Russia and India have wrapped up talks on an Indian purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems. The deal is reportedly worth up to $6 billion USD and would give India considerable airspace denial capabilities in the region.
September 2018 - India is expected to ink a deal with Russia for the sale of the Russian S-400 air defense system - a move that is sure to draw the ire of Washington.
October 2018 - Indian and Russia have completed a $5.4 billion defense deal which includes five S-400 air defense systems.