The S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems will cost India anywhere between Rs 39,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore, if the deal comes through. This would be one of India’s biggest defence deals in recent times and there is little doubt that the S-400 Triumf is one of the most modern and formidable defence systems in the world today. By buying the S-400 systems, India would make a good strategic move, feel defence experts. At a time when India is facing increased tensions with Pakistan, the S-400 Triumf would act as an effective deterrent. India is fast emerging as a leading world economic power, and it is only natural and right for it to shore up the country’s defence capabilities to protect assets. Reports suggest that India plans to deploy three S-400 systems in the west (against Pakistan) and two in the east (against China).
Ankur Gupta, Vice President- Aerospace & Defence at Ernst Young India calls the deal an imperative for India. “With India acquiring high value assets such as the Rafale, it is imperative that complementary and effective capabilities for Air Defence such as the S-400 also be purchased,” he tells FE Online. “However, with another large procurement being signed with a foreign OEM, it remains to be seen how the ‘Make in India’ theme is weaved into this acquisition,” he added.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd) and a Distinguished Fellow, CAPS is of the view that the prospective acquisition of the S-400 is even more relevant than the Rafale deal. “The S-400 will surely augment India’s air defence capabilities in a very potent manner. The acquisition of S-400 has much greater relevance and importance than Rafale or any fighter aircraft deal,” he tells FE Online.
Talking about the benefits of the system, Manmohan Bahadur says, “The S-400 is the latest defence weapons system from the Russian stable that the country is willing to offer. It is definitely not the latest Russian air defence missile system, they have the S-500 now, which is why they are willing to sell the S-400. But, it is a very potent system and has a set of missiles with three different kind of ranges – short, medium and long. The radar allows for a big area to be covered.” “The incoming aircraft get picked up far far ahead, even before they are able to enter the border area,” he adds.
Watch file video: S-400 Triumf Hits Moving Targets in Dark
On whether it would be a good enough deterrent against Pakistan and China, he says, “Obviously, you cannot place the S-400 system right next to the border, because then it would be a prime target, but even a few kilometers from the border it helps to push back the assets of the adversary. You can then look at hitting an aircraft around 200 kilometer’s into Pakistan. China will also have the S-400, but for China its Eastern and South-Eastern regions are areas of concern. China doesn’t see India as a threat. So, as far as India’s decision to buy the S-400 goes, it is a matter of political assessment. The establishment knows that there are greater chances of a conflict with Pakistan than with China.”
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) sees the S-400 as a “welcome addition”. “The S-400 is essentially a long-range missile defence system. It has BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) capabilities. It is an extremely potent weapon and to that extent will be a welcome addition to India’s air defence arsenal. It is purely a defensive system against incoming threats,” he says. “As far as India’s need goes, our own BMD is still at an experimental stage. The Prithvi and Akash systems are yet to be fully developed in terms of their BMD capabilities. The S-400 on the other hand is a system that is available to India off the shelf. Which is why I am saying that it will be a welcome addition to India’s air defence arsenal,” he tells FE Online.
Incidentally, the S-400 Triumf is a system that even the US said to be wary of. Russian experts have claimed that the S-400 can strike down America’s famous F-35 stealth fighter as well. The system has 8 launchers, a control centre, a powerful radar and 16 missiles that are available for reload. The system is capable of firing three types of missiles, hence creating a layered defence for any country that owns it. The S-400 system, which is referred to as the ‘Growler’ by NATO countries, is capable of tracking 300 targets and can shoot down around three dozen of them within a range of up to 400 kms! The tracking range of S-400 actually goes up to 600 kms!