As the Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in New Delhi for the annual Indo-Russian strategic summit, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is working at full pace to have the much delayed S-400 Deal concluded on the sidelines of the summit. Sources working on the deal have indicated that a major part of the negotiations for the weapon systems have been concluded and only a formal contract is the missing block to fortify the deal.
Pegged at US $ 5 billion, India and Russia have been negotiating for the S-400 for over a decade now. The Indian Air Force, which will be the primary user of the systems, has time and again raised the requirement for these systems to effectively counter the growing Chinese and Pakistani air activity in the region.
The addition of high-grade combat aircraft such as the F-16 and the J-20 stealth fighters to the fleet of the Pakistani and Chinese Air Force has only increased the requirement for these long-range systems. Currently, India’s basic air defence system is formed around Soviet-era SAM systems, which are in dire need of replacements. Maintaining the sanity of the sky and bringing down any unwarranted activity over its territory has been a clear cut task for the Indian Air Force.
It is reliably learnt that India and Russia have already concluded the financial negotiations for the contract and that the weapon system is expected to cost India INR 40,000 crore. Sources with Almaz Antey, speaking to Life of Soldiers during DefExpo – 2018, had revealed that negotiations were for acquiring 5 S-400 SAM systems, which will come with over 110 guided missiles.
While the US’ rattling of imposing sanctions under the CAATSA act, if India opted to deal with Russia for the S-400s, had initial emerged as a hurdle in the conclusion of the deal, the MEA through sustained dialogue with their US counterparts is learnt to have won waivers to the country. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had openly defied the threats of CAATSA and had wen to tear it as only a U.S. law and not a UN law. The MoD has also relied its intentions to press on with the deal to a visiting US delegation comprising of Senator Mac Thornberry, who is Chairman of the U.S. House Armed Service Committee.
The S-400 Triump system has been extensively designed around the S-300 air defence system. The deployment of long range cruise missiles and modern aircraft to the European bases had led Russia to start a program for an extended range system that could boost interceptor ranges of 300+ kilometres. The S-300 system is a highly proven system and had already met half the stipulated range, thus Russia constituted a program based around the S-300 in the late 1990. By 1999, Russia had tested a long-range system with speculated ranges of 350+ kilometres. By February 2004, Russia formally announced the successful development of the system. By April 2004, the system had successfully intercepted a ballistic missile and proved its might. Russia inducted the system into its rank in 2007 and till date is speculated to have acquired 2 battalions of this highly sophisticated system. Each battalion is expected to have 7-8 launchers and each battalion is estimated to cost a whopping US $200 million. The systems are also learnt have to been deployed to Syria, where Russia is in tense stand-off with US and NATO forces, which are fighting against Bashar Assad forces.
S-400 Triump system can be designated as a three stage interceptor system, which houses three different missiles to counter multiple targets at multiple ranges. Extremely long range targets are obliterated by 40N6 missile. The 48N6 missile is charged with acquiring long range threats. Medium range targets are annihilated by 9M96E2 missile system and the 9M96E missile system can bring down short range targets. The 40N6 missile system is a long range weapon system, which can strike targets as far as 400 kilometres. The missile is equipped with active and semi-active homing seekers that assists in swift interception of ELINT platforms. The missile is speculated to house a two staged motor being powered by a solid propellant.
With the contract for these systems set to be inked in October, 2018, the first of the systems are expected to be delivered to India by 2021. The induction of these systems will give India a major fillip in its capabilities to counter hostile aerial threats in the Indo-Pacific region.