Russian servicemen working inside a command centre at a new S-400 system deployed at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia. (Representative image: Reuters)
India will receive delivery of its first S-400 air defence systems by December and it will provide full cover even at high altitudes such as eastern Ladakh, The Economic Times reported, citing the system’s Russian developers.
Officials told the newspaper that the COVID-19 pandemic did not cause any delay and the first unit meant to be delivered to India is nearing completion.
“IAF (Indian Air Force) personnel are now training on the system in Russia,” Dmitriy Sugaev, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), told the newspaper. Sugaev added that there are currently no requests from India on ordering a larger number of the systems.
The Russian developers of the S-400 expressed confidence about the air defence system’s performance in areas at high altitude. Extensive testing was undertaken which shows that the S-400 can be operated at altitudes of over 3,000 metres above sea level.
Deployment of the S-400 systems is being seen as a significant boost to Indian defence capabilities, especially along the Line of Actual Control with China. The Indian military has been locked in tensions at high altitudes with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in recent years. Last year, the border tensions escalated into the skirmish in eastern Ladakh and the June 2020 violent face-off in the Galwan Valley, leading to massive armed mobilisation on both sides.
Mikhail Podvyaznikov, deputy general director of Almaz Central Design Bureau, the manufacturer of the system, told The Economic Times that the systems will be able to provide 100 percent protection against missiles and other air borne targets even at an altitude of over 3,000 metres.
What makes S-400 the key
S-400, or ‘Triumf’, is considered one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems. It is developed by Russia's Almaz Central Design Bureau. Its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reporting name is 'SA-21 Growler'.
The system is able to track flying objects over 600 kilometres and can engage with these hostile targets and shoot them down using missiles in a range of up to 400 km. It can shoot down hostile aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles and hypersonic targets.
Every unit consists of multiple components: a long-range radar to track objects, a target acquisition radar, a command post vehicle and battalions of launchers. The system can carry multiple types of missiles catering to different strike ranges.
While specifications of the S-400 systems that are to be delivered to India are unclear, the regular variant used by Russian forces consists of at least eight launchers with 32 missiles.
The system can reportedly shoot down strategic bombers such as B-1 and B-2, airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), fighter jets such as the F-16 and land attack missiles such as the Tomahawk. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has F-16s in its fleet.
In Russia, the system has been operational since 2007 and defends capital Moscow from aerial threats. In 2015, it was deployed in Syria to protect Russian and Syrian naval and air assets. Russia had also positioned units in the annexed Crimean peninsula.
China also has S-400 systems and has reportedly deployed two squadrons at its Hotan airbase in Xinjiang and Nyingchi airbase in Tibet, across Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, respectively.