“Russia has begun supplying the S-400 air defence system to India, and the first division will be delivered by the end of 2021,” said Dmitry Shugaev, Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, confirming the start of the long-awaited delivery of the long-range air defence system.
In October 2018, India struck a $5.43 billion agreement with Russia to purchase five S-400 Triumf (NATO name: SA-21 Growler) regiments. The delivery was supposed to start in 24 months, by the end of 2020, but it was pushed back owing to late payments and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both parties eventually agreed on a Rupee-Rouble payment exchange, after which India paid a 15% advance, initiating the delivery cycle. According to the government’s announcement in Parliament in July 2019, delivery is expected to be finished by April 2023. The exact date is yet to be determined.
Air Chief Marshal (ACM) V.R. Chaudhari told the media in October that the “first regiment will be recruited within this year.”
The S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most modern air defence systems, capable of tracking and neutralising a wide variety of approaching objects across great distances, including aeroplanes, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
In a dense radio countermeasure scenario, the system may offer air interception against early warning aircraft, airborne missile strategic carriers, tactical and theatre ballistic missiles, and medium-range ballistic missiles, according to the manufacturer, Almaz-Antey State Corporation of Russia. Due to its capabilities, the S-400 has become one of Russia’s most contentious weapons exports, as well as a key point of disagreement between Washington and Moscow.
According to the missile defence project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), development of the S-400 started in 1993 but was postponed owing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The technology was eventually tested in 1999 and early 2000. The S-400 is a replacement for the S-300 system, which entered service in 2007. It was designed by Almaz-Antey Central Design Bureau. It was first deployed in Syria in 2015 to defend Russian military installations, and it has since been used in Crimea.
The S-400 is a fully mobile system with a 3D phased array acquisition radar capable of monitoring 300 targets over a distance of 600 kilometres, a command and control centre, autonomous tracking and targeting systems, launchers, and support vehicles. Each system contains four distinct kinds of missiles with ranges of up to 40 km, 120 km, 250 km, and 400 km, and a maximum height of 30 km. A layered air defence net is created by the various ranges and elevations. A battalion of S-400s contains eight missile launchers, each with four missiles. The 55K6E combat control post is part of the 30K6E Command and Control components.
The S-400 would supplement India’s indigenous ballistic missile defence system built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and establish a multi-tier air defence system across the country, filling major holes in the country’s national air defence network.
According to Air Force officials, the S-400 will be easily integrated into the country’s current air defence network. Because of its vast range, the system can follow Pakistan Air Force aircraft as soon as they take off from their bases if they are positioned near the western borders.
The high-tech S-400 would offer the Indian Air Force (IAF) a boost and compensate for its dwindling fighter aircraft squadrons in the long run. Former IAF head ACM B.S. Dhanoa has described the S-400 air defence systems and Rafale fighter planes as “game-changers” for the force, describing them as a “booster dosage” for the force.
The S-400 has been a significant bone of contention between Russia and the United States, with Washington regularly expressing its discontent with New Delhi and asking India to cancel the deal, instead giving superior US air defence systems.
With deliveries starting, India risks being subjected to US penalties under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), for which the Biden administration has given no clear indication that it would grant a waiver. The issue is anticipated to dominate talks during the 2+2 ministerial conversation between India and the United States, which will take place in early December.
India has a number of high-tech partnerships lined up with both Russia and the United States, and balancing the two will be a tightrope walk for New Delhi.
Because of several big-ticket deals, defence trade between India and Russia has reached $15 billion in the last three years, and deals for Ka-226T utility helicopters, AK-203 assault rifles, and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) systems, as well as other major hardware, are nearing completion.
India is in the process of acquiring additional P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from the United States, among other things, while negotiations for armed drones and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft are at an advanced stage.
Last month, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman cautioned that if India received the S-400, it would face a difficult choice. Mr. Biden would make the choice of applying penalties under CAATSA, Ms. Sherman said, referring to the S-400 as “hazardous.” Later, three Republican Senators introduced a bill to shield India from such penalties.
Apart from defence trade, India and the United States are members of the Quad grouping and regional initiatives, both of which would influence any decision to impose sanctions.
In another development, Russia is working on a more powerful S-500 air defence system, which will be provided to India, according to Russian authorities.
Source: The Hindu