Protuzračni raketni kompleks S-400 na probi za Paradu Pobjede. Izvor: Vitalij Belousov / RIA Novosti.
On the eve of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s first visit to Israel, one of India’s leading weapons suppliers, India is planning to buy the new-generation Russian S-400 ‘Triumf’ air defence missile systems, which can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at ranges of up to 400-km, Indian media reports in the ‘Times of India’ and the ‘Economic Times’ said on Sunday.
Sources told the Times of India that the defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, will "soon" take up the proposal moved by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to purchase around a dozen S-400 long-range systems from Russia.
"The project is at an initial stage at present. But it will be a government-to-government contract when it is finalized, with the S-400 systems being inducted over several years," said a defence ministry source.
The acquisition could likely be a game-changer, providing strategic parity for the Indian armed forces with inimical forces in the neighbourhood. Sources in the government told RIR the government was “definitely” considering the purchase. It is possible the announcement could happen when the Indian Prime Minister visits Moscow.
The proposal to acquire the S-400 system comes ahead of Parrikar's forthcoming visit to Russia later this month. The Defence Minister’s visit is part of a series of preparatory visits to finalise the agenda for the summit meeting of President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to be held in Moscow in December.
India’s decision to acquire the long-range missile system comes almost a year after China signed a deal with Russia to acquire six S-400 missile system batteries, for US$ three billion. China is likely to begin receiving the S-400 batteries, known as `SA-21 Growler' by NATO from 2017 onwards. The ‘Triumf’ system is said to rival the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the US Patriot PAC-3 system.
Countries which have territorial disputes with China in the East and South China Seas, from Japan to Vietnam and the Philippines, are all worried at the prospect of the Chinese People's Liberation Army getting such a force-multiplier to dominate the airspace.
India is clearly also worried about China’s acquisition of such a military capability, even if it is defensive in nature, as it could prove to be a strategic game-changer in the event of any possible conflict.
The S-400 has three kinds of missiles, with different capabilities, that can fly at supersonic and hypersonic speeds to intercept all kinds of targets at ranges from 120 to 400-km. Russian experts even proclaim the S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system can "radar lock and shoot down" stealth fifth-generation fighters like the American F-35 jets.
India, on its part, is trying to plug the gaping holes in its airspace surveillance and defence network with progressive induction of a wide array of sensors and weapons.
With both the IAF, tasked with the country's air defence, and Army saddled with increasingly obsolete air defence weapons, the ongoing induction of the indigenous 25-km range Akash area defence system has come as a major relief for them.
Induction of the Israeli Spyder low-level quick-reaction missile systems, with a 15-km range, is now planned from 2016-2017 onwards. The project was stuck since the Tatra trucks -- on which the missile systems were to be mounted - had got enmeshed in corruption scandals. The contract was recently amended to replace the Tatra trucks with indigenous Tata trucks.
Deliveries of the medium-range SAM systems jointly developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and DRDO, with an interception range of 70-km, will also begin from 2016-2017, the Economic Times reported.
Along with induction of these weapons, IAF is also now expanding its fully-automated surveillance network called IACCS (integrated air command and control system) to the entire country, with the cabinet committee on security recently approving another Rs 8,000 crore for the project. Eventually, the Army and Navy's Akash Teer and Triguna air defence networks will be integrated with the IACCS, the Times of India reported.
India is among the world’s largest importers of military hardware, and one of the issues Prime Minister Modi will have on his agenda in Moscow is to seek increased collaboration with Russian and other defence hardware manufacturers to ‘Make in India’ and not only transfer technology.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.