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S-400 Defence System

Russia has started supplying S-400 air defence system to India and the first division will be delivered by the end of 2021.

India has signed a deal in 2018 with Russia for five S-400 Triumf regiments from Russia under a 5.43 billion dollar deal. The delivery was to begin by the end of 2020 but was slightly delayed due to late payments as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to be completed by April 2023. Both sides worked out a Rupee-Rouble exchange for payments following which India paid 15% advance amount triggering the delivery cycle.

The rupee-rouble arrangement means that the payment for S -400 will be done by India in Indian Rupees (INR) equivalent to the value of the weapon system in roubles, the currency of the Russian Federation.

S-400 system

  • Named SA-21 Growlerby NATO and developed by Russia’s Almaz Central Design Bureau,S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems.
  • It is a surface-to-airmissile system that can simultaneously track and neutralise a range of incoming objects spanning aircraft, missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) over very long ranges.
  • It can provide air interception against early warning aircraft, airborne missile strategic carriers, tactical and theatre ballistic missiles, medium-range ballistic missiles, etc.
  • The S-400 is fully mobile and each system has 3D phased array acquisition radar that can track around 300 targets up to 600 km.
  • The missile system can tackle any aerial target within a range of 400kmand can simultaneously engage 36 targets.
  • Each system has four different types to missiles for up to 40 km, 120 km, 250 km and 400 km and up to 30 km altitude.
  • It can be activated within five minutes and has the flexibility to be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the air force, army and navy.

Importance of the S-400 for India

  • The S-400 fills the gaps in India’s national air defence network and would complement India’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence System developed by the DRDO to create a multi-tier air defence over the country.
  • The S-400 would be seamlessly integrated into the country’s existing air defence network of Indian Air Force.
  • If it is deployed towards the Western borders, the system can track movements of Pakistan Air Force aircraft as soon as they take off from their bases.
  • The S-400 air defence systems and Rafale fighter jets are “game-changers” for the IAF and they were like a booster dose to the force.

USA’s concerns

  • The US’s Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), 2017 has provided for economic and travel sanctions against countries and officials that transacted significant military and intelligence contracts with Russia, North Korea and Iran.
  • The sanctions which were slapped on China and Turkey for buying the S-400 could also be used against India.
  • For India, acceding to such sanctions challenges the nation’s principles of sovereignty and strategic autonomy.
  • The U.S. has a choice to waive sanctions if the waiver is found to be in American vital national security interests or if India reduces its future dependence on Russian weaponry.
  • India-Russia Defence trade – The defence trade between India and Russia was $15 billion in the last three years because of several big-ticket deals.
  • A report by SIPRI on the trends in international arms transfer said that while arms imports by India decreased by 33% between 2011–15 and 2016–20, Russia remained the largest supplier to India in 2011-15 and in the next half decade from 2016 -20.
  • Deals related to Ka-226T utility helicopters, AK-203 assault rifles and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) systems are in advanced stages of being concluded.
  • India- US Defence trade – The USA is the fourth largest arms supplier to India in 2016–20.
  • India is in the process of procuring additional P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft, AH-64E Apache attack helicopters with the US.
  • Negotiations are in advanced stages for armed drones and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft.

India is a prized U.S. partner of the Quad, the Indo-Pacific and in countering China and hence sanctions will cause a rift in India-U.S. ties and could spur India towards Russia.


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