​Russia begins supplying S-400 air defence system; what gives warfare its double edge

Sources said that the system will be first deployed at a location close to the western border of the country from where it can tackle threats from both parts of the borders with Pakistan and China

FP Staff November 15, 2021 18:28:45 IST
​Russia begins supplying S-400 air defence system; what gives warfare its double edge

Photo: RIA Novosti

Russia has begun the delivery of S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems to India, according to a senior Russian official. Russia's Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation {FSMTC} Dmitry Shugaev told Sputnik news agency that the deliveries are going on as planned.

The development comes as both sides prepare for a visit to India by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 6 December for a bilateral summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was no official comment by the Indian Air Force on the deliveries.

It is learnt that deliveries of some components of the missile systems have started and all key parts are yet to reach India. Here's all you need to know about the new missile system.

When was the deal signed?
In October 2018, India had signed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.
The deal was first approved by the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Acquisition Council {DAC} in December 2015, just days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden Russia visit.

India-Russia deal in troubled waters
Among other things, the CAATSA {Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act} sword still hangs on India's head despite closer than ever defence ties with the United States. Under CAATSA, the US can impose sanctions on any country that purchases major defence hardware from Russia in response to Russia’s annexation of

Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. But the President of the United States reserves the right to grant strategic partners a waiver from these sanctions.

But US position on granting this waiver to India has been unclear. Former President Trump had warned India, that sanctions will apply before it signed the final deal in 2018. The Biden administration, on the other hand, has not yet clarified whether it will impose sanctions on India even though pro-India lobbyists and several Independent voices on Capitol Hill have been advising against it.

Indian representatives have always stated that the Indo-Russian deal for the S-400 was signed in 2016, whereas CAATSA was introduced in 2017. Hence, the deal predates CAATSA.

The CAATSA, which was brought in 2017, provides for punitive actions against any country engaged in transactions with Russian defence and intelligence sectors. The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey under the CAATSA for the purchase of a batch of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during a visit to India last month said that any country deciding to use the S-400 missiles is "dangerous" and not in anybody's security interest. At the same time, she hoped that the US and India will be able to resolve differences over the procurement.

It is learnt that the matter is being discussed between India and the US.

What is an air defence system?
An air defence system are a combination of flight detection hardware and attack missiles, which detects, tracks and destroys hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, medium-range and cruise missiles as well as drones at a range of up to 400 kilometres and an altitude of 30 kilometres.

The S-400 missile defence system is equipped with four different missiles, which can engage enemy aircraft, ballistic missiles, and Airborne Warning And Control System {AWACS} planes at 400km, 250km, the medium-range 120km and the short-range 40km.

Why is the deal critical for India?
India has over eight lakh square nautical miles of airspace, of which nearly 35 percent is under military control. With two nuclear-armed neighbours, India faces the constant threat of air attacks.
In fact, China has already deployed two S-400 squadrons at Ngari Gar Gunsa and Nyingchi airbase in

Tibet, across Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh respectively in the ongoing border standoff. And sources say that India is all set to match up the arms build-up as soon as the deliveries arrive.

The sources, speaking to ANI confirmed that the system will be first deployed at a location close to the western border of the country from where it can tackle threats from both parts of the borders with Pakistan and China.
Sources said after the first squadron is deployed, the Air Force would start focusing on the eastern borders along with providing resources for training of personnel within the country. Indian Air Force officers and personnel have trained in Russia on the system.

It will give India an edge in South Asean skies as, according to Business Today, the S-400 missile system has a tracking range of 600 kilometres, while it can engage up to 36 targets at one time. Compared with its predecessor, the S-300, the S-400 has a 2.5 times faster firing rate. Hence, it is considered to be the most modern, air defence system in the Russian arsenal.

According to reports, the missile system can be used against Pakistan’s short-range nuclear missiles, Nasr. Nasr missiles are specifically designed to counter India’s “cold start” strategy against Pakistan. With S-400 missiles in India’s armoury, the air bases of Pakistan and China’s Tibetan bases come under striking distance.

(With inputs from agencies)

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