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J C Menon

India has asked Russia to expedite the delivery schedule of the five S-400 TRIUMP Surface-to-Air missile systems, amid heightened tensions along its borders. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is currently visiting Moscow to hold discussions at the highest level to ensure that the deliveries will not be delayed due to coronavirus and other geo-political developments. Russia is believed to have delayed the delivery of the systems by almost a year to December 2021 due to Covid-19 pandemic. The mode of payment for the US$5.4bn deal has already been formalised after India completed large payments for the system last year.

Urgent need

The request for an early delivery comes as India augments its defence preparedness after last week, when India lost 20 soldiers to violence on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, while the situation along the border remains tense. The system is expected to be deployed in the National Capital Region and along the Mumbai-Baroda Industrial Corridor. India has reasons to worry as China, which also enjoys strong defence ties with Russia, has already acquired the S-400 system from its northern neighbour. The contract for the S-400 system was inked on the sidelines of the Indo-Russia annual summit in India in 2018, defying a potential threat of punitive measures by the United States.

According to the contract, the delivery of the missile system is staggered and will be completed in the first half of 2025 when the fifth and the final regimental set will be delivered. Russian officials had in 2019 noted that the deal would be made in Rupee-Rouble currency to eliminate dependency on the US dollar. The package includes the 40N6 missile which gives the S-400 has the capability to intercept cruise missiles and aircraft up to 400KM away, engage up to 36 targets at a time and simultaneously launch 72 missiles.

Increase defences

With increasing threats from its neighbours, India has been looking at boosting its national air defence capacity and the S-400 is the ideal choice since it’s Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft defence system. Once India inducts the highly-mobile and automated systems, which have different kinds of supersonic and hypersonic missiles as well as long-range radars to track 100 to 300 targets simultaneously, they can be used to protect cities during war or vital installations like nuclear power plants. The plan is to fully integrate the S-400 with the Indian Air Force (IAF) air defence network, which combines a wide array of sensors and weapons, to further enhance their lethality and plug gaps in the country’s airspace.

The S-400 is as an upgrade of the S-300 GROWLER family, designed and developed by Almaz Antei. The S-400 is capable of hitting tactical and strategic aircraft as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, featuring a set of radars, missile launchers and command posts.