Russia has caught up with U.S. air superiority through the development of new surface-to-air missile systems that threaten to mitigate any advantage the Pentagon has in the air, an Air Force general said Monday.
“I don’t think it’s controversial to say that they’ve closed the gap in capability – not just in Europe, everywhere,” General Frank Gorenc, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said Monday at the Air and Space Conference in Washington, D.C.
Gorenc’s remarks place him in the growing ranks of military officials who believe that U.S. military superiority is waning relative to key rivals. These remarks have escalated during the looming threat of sequestration and the prospect of deep cuts to military spending.
The world noticed the quick leap forward in innovation when a Russian aircraft managed to take down a Georgian drone during a 2008 conflict, Military.com reports. It comes as Russia is strengthening ties with Syria and with Iran, who is looking forward to sanctions being lifted as a result of President Obama’s nuclear deal.
After the conflict died down, President Vladimir Putin kicked the country’s military modernization into overdrive, so much so that Gorenc now feels comfortable saying that Moscow has closed the air superiority gap with Washington.
This capability closure has forced NATO aircraft and U.S. aircraft, like the F-22, F-15, and A-10, to take a much more cautious stance toward Kalinngrad and Crimea, areas which Russia has taken control of since last year. Russia has taken pains to deploy long-range surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) to ward off any aircraft looking to enter the airspace.
“Some of the array that’s in Kaliningrad extends into Poland today, that’s a fact,” Gorenc added. “Up to this point, we have talked anti-access, area-denial with respect to the Pacific problem, but what I’m telling you is this is not just a Pacific problem, it is as significant in Europe as it is anywhere else on the planet.”
Gorenc didn’t name any system names, but he might have been referring to the Russian S-400 or the S-75A Dvina. The S-400 is one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air missile defense systems in the world.
Russia has also shipped the S-400 to China to function as an upgrade for the old S-300 Soviet-era gear still in deployment. The deal took a long time to complete, because Russia is suspicious the Chinese military will try to reverse engineer the S-400, just as China has done to U.S. military equipment.
The solution to Russia’s development of air defense capabilities? Gorenc recommended exploring new tactics or perhaps even returning to training scenarios from during the Cold War.