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India - S-400

While India boasts of developing its own missile defense system, it is also buying Russian S-400 air defense missiles capable of intercepting missiles as well as aircraft. The S-400 acquisition, which has some utility for missile defense, suggests that India is interested in the capability and not merely letting DRDO have a science project. India is notorious for developing home-grown weapons, such as aircraft and tanks, that take much longer to develop than expected, and are plagued with problems when they are fielded. All too frequently India announced that it had a capability which mobilized Pakistan to innovate, when in fact India was a long way from achieving the stated capability, but Pakistan already developed a counter measure.

The search for a BMD system continued despite changes of political leadership and ideology in New Delhi. At various times, India has sought the Russian-built S-300, the Israeli-American Arrow, and the US-built Patriot ballistic missile defence systems. India also to had a domestic BMD system in development. By May 2019 the US was offering India the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems. The issue had created dissension among some of allies of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when it included communist parties because New Delhi has been seeking to buy a US-built system based on the Patriot PAC-3.

The exact cost of a THAAD defense system is a bit difficult to ascertain, but each unit can cost around $3 billion. Saudi Arabia signed a deal in November 2018 for 44 THAAD launchers and missiles - each battery comes with six launchers - for $15 billion. In comparison, India is reported to be paying $5.4 billion for five S-400s, each of which consists eight launchers. New Delhi eventually went ahead to ink the $5.43 billion (almost Rs 40,000 crore) deal with Russia for five squadrons of the advanced S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems in October 2018. Proponents argued that in terms of tracking and scanning of radars, height parameters and the area it can cover, the S-400 system was the better option. India wasn’t very impressed with the Patriot compared with the S-400, which was said to win hands-down in capability and in service availability.

The outermost layer of Delhi’s missile shield would be provided by the indigenous two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) system being developed by DRDO. This system’s AAD (advanced air defence) and PAD (Prithvi air defence) interceptor missiles are geared to intercept enemy missiles, in the 2,000-km class, at altitudes from 15-25 km and 80-100 km respectively. The second layer will be through the highly automated and mobile S-400 systems, which will have missiles with interception ranges of 120, 200, 250 and 380 kms, backed by their associated battlemanagement system of command posts and launchers, long-range acquisition and engagement radars. Then will come the Barak-8 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, jointly developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and DRDO, which have a 70-100 km interception range. The indigenous Akash area defence missile systems, with a 25-km range, in turn, will form the layer over the NASAMs.

By January 2020 India’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program was claimed to be "complete", and the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) were working on a proposal to seek the government’s nod to install the missile shield for the national capital. The Indian BMD, along with the Russian S-400 Triumf air defence system, aimed to secure the country from all kinds of incoming missiles, including nuclear, and flying objects. “The BMD programme has been completed. All tests carried so far have been successful, including the radars and missiles. The IAF, which is responsible for the country’s air defence, and the DRDO, which has developed the system, will now move a joint proposal for the government’s clearance,” a top government official told ThePrint 08 January 2020. The IAF planned to deploy five regiments of S-400 missiles on the border to handle all the air assets of Pakistan Air Force. But the cost of Rs 39,500 crore for the five regiments of S-400 bothered the Indian authorities. One crore is 10,000,000, equal to 100 lakh in the Indian numbering system. It is written as 1,00,00,000 with the local style of digit group separators. A lakh is equal to one hundred thousand, written as 1,00,000. The price equals about US$5.4 billion at recent exchange rates.

The procurement of five S-400 systems was discussed during the 23-24 December 2015 visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia, with a joint statement on the issue to be made after the planned meeting between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The S-400 is a medium- and long-range air defense system, capable of neutralizing modern and advanced air and space attacks at the distance up to 400 km.

The Indian Defense Ministry had initially intended to procure a dozen S-400 missile systems, however, military later estimated that five units of such weapons would be sufficient to safeguard the country against external threats. The forthcoming deal, estimated to be worth around 400 billion rupees ($6 billion at the current exchange rate), also covers the purchase of about 6,000 missiles, a mobile launcher and a radar station, according to the publication.

On 15 October 2016 the two sides signed an Inter Governmental Agreement for the purchase of S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile system which has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km.

Russia was preparing to supply S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile systems to India and both sides are discussing the terms of the sale, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said 02 June 2017. Precontract preparations underway on the supplies of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile complexes to India, Rogozin said. “Pre-contract preparations are underway on the supplies of S-400 anti-aircraft missile complexes to India,” he said. “It is difficult to say yet how much time they will take. There is an agreement between governments and now we are simply discussing the terms,” Russia’s official Tass News Agency quoted Rogozin as saying on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to this Russian city. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the S-400 Triumf air defence missile deal with Russia will go ahead despite the US sanctions on military transactions with Moscow. Ms Sitharaman was talking to reporters in New Delhi 13 July 2018. Referring to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, under which the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on military deals with Russia, she said it is an American law and not a UN law and India has conveyed its position on the issue to the US.

The Defence Minister said, India's defence relation with Russia has endured several decades and Government has conveyed about it to a US Congressional delegation which visited India recently. She said negotiations with Russia for the S-400 missile deal have almost come to conclusion.The Defence Minister said it may take two-and-a-half to four years to implement the S-400 missile deal after it is signed.

There had been mounting concerns in India over the US sanctions against Russian defence majors including Rosoboron export as billions of dollars of military purchases may be impacted because of the punitive measure. The US had announced sanctions against Russia under the stringent law for its alleged meddling in the American presidential election in 2016. India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.

The procurement of five S-400 air defense systems for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in late September 2018. The Indian Air Force was expected to receive first S-400 squadron within 24 months after the contract's signing. The rest will be delivered within the next 4-5 years.

The S-400 missile defence system deal could result in US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia. The US has urged its allies to forgo transactions with Russia, warning that the S-400 missile defence system that India wanted to buy would be a “focus area” for it to implement punitive sanctions against a nation undertaking “significant” business deals with the Russians. American lawmakers, however, have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.

US officials are believed to have indeed conveyed US willingness to waive these sanctions for S-400s during the inaugural 2+2 meeting in New Delhi September 2018 between defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and their US counterparts.

In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions. India and Russia signed the USD 5 billion S-400 air defence system deal on 05 October 2018 after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, official sources said. The agreement was signed in the presence of both the leaders at the 19th India-Russia annual bilateral summit.

India wanted the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border. S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system. Moscow has already started delivery of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing.

"The need for a missile system like that has been well established. Except for China, no one else has an S-400. The importance and criticality of procuring a system like that need not be emphasized. But on the issue of India taking a call for its security purposes, I think that Prime Minister Modi was very clear," Sitharaman told the Economic Times in an interview.

US President Donald Trump said that India "will soon find out” his decision on the punitive Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over India’s decision to purchase the S-400 missile defense systems from Russia. India has signaled it will ask Washington for a special waiver from sanctions, though a US official said there is no guarantee it would do so. On 16 January 2021 the United States has told India it was unlikely to get a waiver on its planned acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems. Assistant Secretary Christopher Ford said the hope was that other countries ‘take note’ of the US commitment to implement sanctions under CAATSA and that they should avoid further acquisitions of Russian equipment, especially those that could trigger sanctions.”

The Ministry of External Affairs was resolute but restrained in its response. “India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava when asked about the proposed S-400 purchase. “India has always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisitions and supplies which are guided by our national security interests. We have not made any waiver determinations with respect to Indian transactions with Russia,” he had added.

Turkey fell foul of the CAATSA stipulation of a ‘significant transaction’ impacting US security interests. The US noted that the induction of the S-400 will ‘endanger the security of US military technology and personnel” by gathering technical data on the ‘capabilities of F35s’ and passing it on to Moscow. India's acquisition of the S-400 will surely complicate or possibly even scuttle the possibility of India acquiring further advanced defense technologies from the US.

Russia started the delivery of S400 air defence system to India in mid-November 2021, ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi. "Russia has started supplying S-400 air defence system to India, the first division will be delivered by the end of 2021," said Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Director Dmitry Shugaev. Putin visited the country for the annual India-Russia summit on December 6. The one-day visit saw number of pacts being signed, especially between navies of the two countries.

The US faced an awkward dilemma on whether to sanction India, which would lead to failure in its attempt to court India to contain China, or waive the sanction and lose the trust of its allies due to flip-flopping. The US asked its partners to stay away from Russian military equipment to avoid possible sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The US has sanctioned Turkey over purchase of the S-400 under CAATSA.

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Page last modified: 12-04-2022 19:16:23 ZULU