There is enormous pandemonium over the purchase of the S-400 Triumf Missile System by India from Russia. The S-400 Triumf Missile system is crucial for Indian Defence System that needs significant and expeditious modernization amid the incessant threats from its neighboring countries like China and Pakistan. Tribhuvan Darbari MD & CEO Texmaco Defence Systems says that the purchase of the S-400 Triumf Missile System has also become the center of debate because of the possibility of India being sanctioned by the United States (US) under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Tribhuvan Darbari further says that we must never forget the fact that one of the most important features of Indo-Russian bilateral ties is cooperation in the field of defence. Tribhuvan Darbari says that though the relationship is undergoing significant changes in the new context of market reforms and globalization, as well as diversification of acquisitions by India, we are coming closer and the ties are even more strengthened than ever before.
Owing to the past legacy and ongoing projects, Russia will remain, at least for the foreseeable future, a major defence partner of India. However, in view of the increased competition for the Indian defence market and the technological demands of India’s defence sector, joint development and production of new weapon systems could become crucial for sustaining Indo-Russian co-operation in the coming years.
The Indian government has purchased five S-400 Triumf missile systems from Russia at a cost of almost $5.5 billion in the deal that was initially finalized in October 2018.
Tribhuvan Darbari says that the delivery of the systems was supposed to commence by the end of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed payments, and a possibility of India being sanctioned by the United States (US) under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) pushed the delivery by a year.
What are the capabilities of the S-400? Why is S-400 Missile System so crucial to enhancing India’s defence capabilities? Why is the US upset over the deal, and what legal instrument does it have to sanction India over the latter’s purchase? This article tries to answer these questions.
Explaining the S-400 Missile System, Tribhuvan Darbari says that in simpler words, it is an anti-missile and anti-aircraft missile system that can intercept and destroy missiles and aircrafts of the rival belligerent(s) by tracking their trajectories in the air.
Referred to by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) as the SA-21 Growler and operational since 2007, the S-400 Triumf, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies, is a “mobile, surface-to-air missile system” (SAM).
The S-400 is capable of engaging with aircraft, drones, and cruise missiles, and has a what is known as “terminal defense capability”, which basically means that it can destroy the aerial vehicle it is targeting during the final (terminal) phase of its flight.
The successor to the S-200 and S-300, the S-400 has a radar system that can automatically track as many as 300 targets up to 600 km.
The variety of ranges and differing altitudes at which it can track aerial objects leads to the establishment of a much superior air-defence net, according to an analysis in The Hindu.
Similarly, according to Army Technology, a website that extensively covers advancements in military technology, the S400 “is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence.”
The report also says that it is doubly effective as compared to older Russian air defence systems and takes no more than five minutes to set into motion, and can be easily “integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the airforce, army and navy.”
While it is comparable to the US military’s Patriot Missile Long-Range Air-Defence System, or the MIM-104, the S-400 does not yet have the hit-to-kill technology that MIM-104 possesses.
In military terms, the term “hit-to-kill” is used to refer to those weapons that have the capability to hit and destroy the target with such high velocity that it does not need to contain an explosive warhead to do the job.
Tribhuvan Darbari says that Russia is developing even more advanced intercepting equipment that would use hit-to-kill technology. If compared with another US system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, the Russian S-400 is far more advanced. Tribhuvan Darbari says that according to GlobalSecurity.org (an American non-profit website), THAAD is an inferior defence system compared to the S-400, having much lesser range and lacking the capability to hit targets over a long distance.
The S-400, according to experts, will provide a much-needed advancement to India’s ballistic missile system, thereby strengthening its national air defence network by creating a multi-tier air defence, according to Dinakar Peri, the current Defence Correspondent of The Hindu.
Tribhuvan Darbari also mentions that according to the statements of various Air Force officers, “The newly purchased missile system would be easily fused with India’s current missile system, as the Army Technology report had described (mentioned above).”
According to a report by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the Indian Air Force has no choice but to acquire the S-400 because it is lacking the alternatives that could serve its air defence requirements.
The report further says that both capability and costs are being factored in the S-400 equation, arguing that the “ability of the S-400 to constrain the adversary’s air operations even within their own airspace, is unmatched by typical Western systems offered up as analogues.”
At the end, Tribhuvan Darbari also mentions that its price is the biggest factor. The price of S-400 configurations is approximately half of its US counterparts.
Tribhuvan Darbari says that though the purchase of S-400 Missile System from Russia by India may seem to be an issue that may rise between India and the USA, the USA will have to sooner or later accept the fact that India’s decision to do business with Russia is not to antagonize the US but to modernize its own military and serve its own defence requirements. Tribhuvan Darbari says that he is sure that the Biden Goverment will surely accept this fact.
After all, according to Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is a think tank within the US Congress, “the Indian military cannot operate effectively without Russian-supplied equipment and will continue to rely on Russian weapons systems in the near and middle terms.”
Therefore, sanctioning India for prioritizing its security concerns would risk a rupture in the strong Indo-American relations that exist today.
Additionally, many Asian countries rely on this partnership to counter China’s rise in the Pacific.
The US will have to understand that it cannot have it both ways, that is, sanction India for military objectives that can hardly be called selfish, and expect India to follow its lead in future projects in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific.