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US curbs loom, but India works to induct Russia S-400 systems

DEFENCE-India-12-01-2021

Undeterred by the threat of US sanctions, India is going full steam ahead with its induction plan for the advanced S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems from Russia. Ahead of the deliveries beginning in September-October, a large IAF team will be leaving for Russia later this month.

All five mobile squadrons of the S-400 air defence systems, under the $5.43 billion (Rs 40,000 crore) contract inked with Russia in October 2018, will be progressively delivered by April 2023.

The highly-automated S-400s, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, jets, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km, will be “suitably positioned in the western, northern and eastern sectors” to cater for threats from both China and Pakistan, say defence ministry sources.

An initial team of almost 100 officers and airmen will leave for Russia in the last week of January for training in operations and maintenance of the “massive” S-400 systems. “A second IAF team will follow suit after a few months. With the deliveries beginning this September-October, the first S-400 squadron should become operational in India by end-2021 or early-2022,” said a source on Sunday.

India's S-400 deal with Russia may trigger US sanctions: Congressional report

The S-400, which will “revolutionize India’s air defence capabilities”, will have missiles with interception ranges of 120, 200, 250 and 380-km as well as battle-management systems of command posts and launchers, long-range acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector vehicles.

With 128 missiles in each battery, the S-400 system automatically picks up the “most suited” one to launch at an incoming aerial threat. Its radars, with the primary acquisition one with a 600-km range, can track hundreds of targets simultaneously.

Russia claims the S-400 can even intercept ballistic missiles with velocity of 4,800 meters per second as well as “radar lock and shoot down” 5th-generation stealth fighters like the American F-35 Lightning-II jets.

India has already paid “a substantial advance” in the $5.43 billion contract to Russia, with the rest of the instalments being linked to deliveries, after working out a payment mechanism to get around the US sanctions regime, as was earlier reported by TOI.

India remains “very hopeful” it will get a “national security waiver” by the incoming Biden administration from the US law CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act), which was enacted in 2017 to prevent countries from buying Russian weapons or Iranian oil, from the incoming Biden administration.

The US has imposed financial sanctions on China and Turkey for inducting the S-400 systems from Russia. India had earlier mounted a major diplomatic-military campaign to convince the Trump administration, stressing the S-400 acquisition was an “urgent national security requirement” for it.

As reported by TOI earlier, India has assured it will “never compromise the operational secrecy” of the weapon systems it has bought or will buy from the US, while pointing to its unblemished record of not passing sensitive military information of a country to a third party.

One of the main reasons for the US to remove Turkey from its F-35 fighter programme was the fact that the S-400 systems are capable of “mapping or recording” data of other platforms like aircraft or radars.

The stealth characteristics, electronic warfare and other capabilities of the F-35 fighters, for instance, can be recorded and analyzed by the powerful acquisition and engagement radars of the S-400 systems if they are operated together. This would conceivably make F-35s more vulnerable to interception by the long-range missiles of the S-400s.

Having already bagged lucrative Indian defence deals worth $21 billion just since 2007, the US is aggressing hawking its fighters -- like F/A-18, F-15EX or F-21 (upgraded version of F-16) – for mega “Make in India” projects to meet the requirements of the IAF and Navy.