The encouraging news of India’s decision to ink a Rs 39,000 crore deal for five new-generation Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems is exceedingly good news for the strategic planners of the nation. The contemporary Air Defence System can counter all hostile air threats like fighter aircraft, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at remarkably long ranges of up to 400-km.
The present day S-400 long-range surface to air missile system has come into being with continuous upgradations of the earlier S-300P missile system by incorporating contemporary technologies over almost 45 years. The long range Surface-to-Air (SAM) system is deployable as a part of area air defence organisation for the defence of large sized vital Vulnerable Areas.
The ultra modern S-400 missile system features an active radar trans-receiver capable of finding and tracking its target on its own. These missiles, therefore, have very high kill probabilities (>90%) and are fire-and-forget weapons achieving exceptionally high ranges. The S-400 system incorporates three different types of missiles as per the envisaged air threat. The first is the 40 N6 missile which is an exceptionally long range missile having a range of up to 400 km. The missile is optimised for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) role. The second type is the 48 N6 missile which is a long-range missile that can fly at speeds of up to Mach 14 and is capable of handling targets flying at speeds of up to 4800 m/s. It has an optimum range of 200 km. The third type of missile used with the S-400 system is the 9M96 series which features an active radar seeker to cater for close-in threats having a range of up to 120 km.
The extremely versatile S-400 Triumf Air Defence system is, therefore, capable of providing an area air defence cover from 120 km to 400 km. The contemporary S-400 system for that reason is capable of countering all types of air threat vehicles which are likely in the Indian context like strategic bombers, fighter aircraft like Q5, J8, J11, J16, JF17, SU27, SU30, F16, Mirage or stealthy targets like J20, J31 and even large sized drones.
The most important capability of the S-400 is of being an anti-missile system, which will greatly complement and enhance the indigenous air defence capability as achieved by DRDO’s Programme AD. Both systems combined together will give a considerable boost to the layered and tiered air defence requirements for the vital assets of the nation. In fact, the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability of the S-400 system will enable countering all SSM threats from our immediate and extended neighbourhood (from the HATF range up to and including Ghauri-class and the DF series which is reportedly deployed in the Tibet Autonomous Region). The procurement of the S-400 Triumf Air Defence System is thus the right decision by the decision makers and will truly be a game changer for the national air defence requirements.
This will provide a threat to aerial vehicles – they dare not try violating the Indian airspace. Any violation will be punished with great contempt!
The writer is an Independent Consultant, Defence and Aerospace. Views are personal