What you need to know about Turkey’s S-400 air defence missiles

What you need to know about Turkey’s S-400 air defence missiles
By Selina Sykes
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Turkey after sparked concern among its NATO allies after striking an arms deal with Russia.


Turkey has signed a controversial deal with Russia to arm its forces with Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

The € 2.14bn deal has sparked concern over Turkey’s increasingly closer ties with Russia and its recent souring of relations with the US and Europe.

A deposit for the S-400 has been put down, but the deal is still to be finalised.

The deal is Turkey’s first major arms purchase from Moscow and its most significant one from a non-NATO partner.

How does the S-400 missile work?

According to Russia, the S-400 system has a range of 400km and can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously, aiming two missiles at each one.

It is said to be able to reach a speed of 4.8km per second.

The S-400 can target aircraft, cruise missiles, medium-range missiles, drones and other airborne surveillance systems, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser for military and technical cooperation, said the S-400 was a very complex system made up of a lot of technical materials.

The system uses four missiles with different ranges from 400km to 40km.

The missile’s long-range surveillance radar tracks objects and relays information to the command vehicle, which assesses potential targets.

When a target is identified, the command vehicle offers the missile launch.

The launch data is then sent to the best-placed launch vehicle and it releases surface-to-air missiles.

The engagement radar helps guide the missiles towards the chosen target.

Why has the arms deal been made?

Ankara has been in the market for new air defences for some time.

It started looking for its own missile-defence system after the US, Germany and the Netherlands declined to renew their Patriot-missile deployments in southern Turkey.

Turkey flirted with the idea of buying a Chinese system, but backed away from the deal after pressure from its NATO allies.


Putin’s military adviser for military and technical cooperation told Russian state-owned TASS news agency: “I can only guarantee that all decisions taken on this contract strictly comply with our strategic interests.

“For this reason we fully understand the reactions of several Western countries which are trying to put pressure on Turkey.”

Under the deal Ankara would receive two batteries of the anti-aircraft missile from Russia and they produce two batteries in Turkey.

Are the new missiles violating NATO terms?

The controversial deal comes amid worsening tensions between Turkey and its NATO partners.


Turkey, which has been a NATO member since 1952, currently has troubled ties with the US over Washington’s support of the YPG Syrian Kurd militia which Ankara considers a terror group.

Erdogan is also embroiled in a fierce row with many European states over the ban on allowing Turkish politicians to hold campaign allies in European Union (EU) countries and Turkey’s imprisonment of journalists and contravention of human rights.

Turkey’s accession to the EU also looks increasingly unlikely, with Erdogan accusing the bloc of backtracking on visa agreements and Syrian migrants.

Turkey’s NATO membership means it would typically require the purchasing of weapons systems to be approved by the defence bloc.

The purchase of missile systems from a non-NATO supplier will raise concerns in the West over their compatibility with the alliance’s equipment.


Washington has already expressed concern, stating that it was “generally a good idea” for NATO allies to buy inter-operable equipment.

An unnamed NATO official told AFP news agency: “No NATO ally currently operates the S-400.

“NATO has not been informed about the details of any purchase.”

Turkey’s decision to go ahead with the purchase without permission from NATO is a further sign of Ankara’s gradual estrangement from its Western allies.

With tensions between NATO and Russia being at their highest since the Cold War, the move will be seen as a calculated snub to the alliance.


Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO.

S-400 and Russia

The S-400 has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007.

Russia deployed the S-400 at its air force base near Latakia in Syria in December 2015 after Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane on the Syria-Turkey border.

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