On Thanksgiving Day, Russia deployed elements of its S-400 TRIUMF surface-to-air missile (SAM) system (NATO Designator: SA-21 GROWLER) to Hmeymim Air Base near Latakia, Syria. The deployment timeline was impressive in its speed. Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 FENCER over Syria on November 24th and a day later Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Russia would deploy the S-400 to protect its air assets. On November 26th a Russian news agency posted photos and video of S-400 equipment being unloaded and set up in Syria. US air planners were not caught completely off guard since handheld photos showing the S-400’s target acquisition radar, the 96L6 (NATO Designator: CHEESE BOARD), began appearing on the internet in early November. These photos sparked speculation the S-400 had already been deployed or would be deployed imminently. However, US and coalition pilots received very un-welcome news when they got to their operations buildings on Thanksgiving morning: many sorties over Syria would now be flown inside of an SA-21 missile engagement zone (MEZ).
One suspects the first instinct of the risk adverse Obama administration would be to further impose restrictive ROEs that will hamper our efforts.
Our other Course of Action is to simply hope the Russians continue to decline to engage US aircraft. Which, that’s a pretty workable solution, right up until it isn’t.
There are ways to counter the S-400, but none of them are cheap or easy. And that presumes our air assets would actually be allowed to engage them. Which, I’m not seeing that happening any time soon.
I suppose if I sat down and tried, I could devise a more ineffectual campaign that boosted Russia and our enemies strategic position, but it would take some doing.