After some delays, Russia has started the delivery of the second S-400 advanced surface-to-air missile defence system to India and will be complete by next month.
Despite the two-month long war with Ukraine and the problems it has encountered, Russia has, so far, ensured that deliveries of the S-400 air-defence system, despite reports of delays, are on time. The S-400 has anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities and India has ordered five systems for the air force.
After the first system arrived, Russia, as per planned, has sent a training module for Indian Air Force personnel so that they can understand the functioning of the system better. The training module arrived in March and the second system, and three more will follow, is expected to arrive next month. The IAF, sources said, has already begun work with the training module, which arrived roughly speaking, on time.
The IAF is now readying to get the third S-400 system, which will be placed in the East, the first one having been located in the North. There is still thinking within the government about additional units of the S-400 or, if it were possible, the S-500. While the S-400 has a range of about 400 km, the S-500, also more versatile, has a longer range– of about 600-650 km. How this works out in the era of atmanirbharata or self-reliance remains to be seen, but if additional S-400s are bought, it can be seen as a repeat order.
There is also the international situation, with the war in the Ukraine going on for over two months. Whether India would buy additional systems remains to be seen. During the 2+2 talks with the United States in Washington DC recently, the US secretary of state, Anthony Blinken and his colleague, defence secretary Lloyd Austin, did not bring up the S-400 in the talks, but fresh sales are another matter altogether and India will have to take a call on it.
The S-400 is fully mobile and each system has a 3D phased array acquisition radar that can track around 300 targets up to 600 km, command and control centre, automatic tracking and targeting systems, launchers and support vehicles. Each system has four different types to missiles for up to 40 km, 120 km, 250 km and maximum range of 400 km and up to 30 km altitude. The different ranges and varying altitudes create a layered air defence net. An S-400 battalion has eight missile launchers, typically with four missiles each. The 30K6E Command and Control elements include the 55K6E combat control post.
The S-400 fills important gaps in India’s national air defence network and would complement India’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and create a multi-tier air defence over the country.
Air Force officials have stated that the S-400 would be seamlessly integrated into the country’s existing air defence network. Given its long range, it means that if deployed towards the Western borders, the system can track movements of Pakistan Air Force aircraft as soon as they take off from their bases.