Range of 400 km, engaging 36 targets at a time: The importance of S-400 missiles

The mega defence deal was among nine pacts signed between visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Russian government
Russian government

Dhairya Maheshwari

India has finally sealed the ₹40,000 crore deal with Russia to acquire five squadrons of S-400 Triumf missiles, with a joint statement confirming the news in New Delhi on Thursday.

“The Sides welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 Long Range Surface to Air Missile System to India,” said the joint statement at the end of bilateral summit level talks between visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The mega defence deal was among nine pacts signed between the two leaders. In signing the defence agreement, India has ignored the threat of sanctions from the United States, which has warned countries of economic penalties, under US Congress’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), if they engage with certain Russian entities.

While the US has indicated that India may be given a one-off waiver for S-400, it has also cautioned New Delhi that repeated waivers may not be possible should they go on to further deepen their military cooperation with Moscow. A waiver on S-400 deal is still awaited.

The Russia-India joint statement, however, seems to have ignored the warning as well.

“The Sides reaffirmed their commitment to enhance military technical cooperation between India and Russia, which has a long history of mutual trust and mutual benefit,” the two sides said, adding, “Both Sides expressed satisfaction at the significant progress made on the ongoing projects of military technical cooperation and recognized the positive shift towards joint research and joint production of military technical equipment between the two countries.”

According to officials, the first batch of S-400 missile systems would be delivered to India by 2020 and deployed at borders with Pakistan and Russia.

Why does India need S-400?

Spelling out the importance of S-400 missile systems for India, Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain had told National Herald that only Turkey and China were other countries which had been offered the technology by Moscow.

“The S-400 Triumph air defence system is one of the world's most advanced and sophisticated air defence systems. It integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre. It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence,” the Indian Army veteran and former GOC of 15 and 21 Corps had explained.

Hasnain impressed that S-400 was “two-times more effective than previous Russian air defence systems and can be deployed within five minutes.”

“It can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the Air Force, Army, and the Navy,” he had explained.

“The system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400km, at an altitude of up to 30km. The system can simultaneously engage 36 targets,” said Hasnain.

The defence expert said, “Since the system provides wide area defence it is ideal for areas where a large number of major assets exist and will provide strategic air defence rather than operational or tactical.”

Saying that the induction of S-400 would bolster India’s air defence capability, Hasnain noted, “India's overall air defence capability has weakened over the years with no fresh induction of equipment for the operational and tactical domains. The employment of state-of-the-art strategic air defence assets will consolidate the air defence capability and overcome a major vulnerability, especially in view of the increasing dependence of both China and Pakistan arming themselves with long range missiles.”

The business mission of the Russian Export Center has also been arranged to coincide with the bilateral summit, which both sides say would lend further impetus to trade relations between the two countries.

(The story was updated with more details at 4:41 PM on Oct 6)

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Published: 05 Oct 2018, 5:30 PM