US Navy Operations Specialist explains why although the S-400 SAM System radar can detect the F-22 and F-35 it can’t achieve “weapons lock” on them

Stealth fighters

The F-35 Lightning II is the most advanced node in 21st Century Security: It brings stealth, sensor fusion, and interoperability to enable access in contested environments and enhances situational awareness.

Like the F-35, the F-22 brings an unrivaled stealth capability to the fight: the Raptor is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

The F-22 was built to be an air-to-air superiority fighter and the F-35 was built to be a strike fighter. These airplanes complement each other and when the Raptor and Lightning II come together, it brings out the strength of both airplanes.

But can radars of advanced air defense systems like the Russian S-400 Surface to Air Missile (SAM) detect the F-22 the F-35 thus putting them at risk in a high threat environment?

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

The S-400 SAM System radar can detect the F-22 and F-35 but it can’t achieve “weapons lock” on them

Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora;

‘Yes, it can… “eventually,” but this fact comes with a significant caveat, one Russia doesn’t want you to know. That caveat is: By the time an S-400 can get a lock on F-22/F-35, these planes have already fired ordnance to destroy the S-400 radar.

‘When using radar against anything, there’s a difference between “detection” and obtaining a “weapons lock.” They are not synonymous. Without a weapons lock, you cannot successfully engage what you are tracking. So, an S-400 can get a “weapons lock” on F-22 or F-35 at about 20–30 miles depending on conditions (the actual figure is classified).

’The bad thing for the S-400 is either the F-22 or F-35 can release a JDAM or SDB II bomb long before that happens. An F-35 can release an AGM-88 HARM (High-Speed Anti-Radiation) missile waaay before (from 60 miles away) that S-400 gets that lock. What this means is that these planes can complete their mission (destroying the S-400) before the S-400 can even begin its mission.

Russian Nebo-M radars

The S-400 is doomed from the start

‘In short…the S-400 is doomed from the start.

‘Pundits will claim that the Nebo-M radar used in the S-400 system can “detect” a stealth fighter from further out. That is true, but since it is doing this with an L-band radar, about all it can do it “detect.”’

Wicklund concludes;

‘As I pointed out above, “detection” isn’t good enough to attack a stealth aircraft. You need that “weapons lock” and Russia needs their X-band radars to get that. But they won’t get that before missiles and bombs, set on destroying the Russian radars, are already screaming in.’

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Photo credit: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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