Significance of India Procuring S-400 Defense System

There is a video on this topic in our YouTube channel. Readers are encouraged to see it.

In November 2021, India has started getting delivery of her one of the most coveted weapon systems in its armory from Russia. As on today, it is arguably the world's most sophisticated surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense system called S-400 Triumf that can be challenged only by its next avatar, the S-500 Prometey. India signed a $5.43 billion deal with Russia in October 2018 and all deliveries are to be completed within five years. The entire S-400 regiment will be operated by Indian Air Force. This system will give India a definitive edge during warfare as it can take out enemy aircraft and missiles as far as 400 km and as high as 185 km from the ground. It is not the range that makes this system stand out from the competition, it is its versatility that is unmatched.

Worldwide SAM Deployments

Before we get into technical details of this system and high-level comparative study with its American competitor, THAAD, let's see which other countries have bought this missile system. Russia has sold this high-tech system to multiple countries around the world. As of November 2021, Russia, China and Turkey are the only three countries that have already deployed S-400 in strategic positions. India will soon join that group. Saudi Arabia was also planning to buy it and was negotiating with Russia in 2019 to buy S-400 as well as the Sukhoi-35 jets. But as per the latest news in November 2021, they are very likely going to buy the American THAAD instead of S-400. It is believed that Algeria also bought this system. Belarus is also negotiating with Russian government for the purchase of S-400. On the other side, apart from USA, countries like South Korea and UAE have American THAAD surface-to-air missile system. Taiwan and Saudi Arabia will very likely have it in future. Japan has cancelled its plan to procure it.

Advantages of S-400

Now, let's understand the key advantages of the S-400 system. It locates a target as far as 600 km and can destroy it at 400 km. It can also operate on a target as close as 2 km range. This wide range of operation gives the S-400 system an edge over similar systems. It can hit a target aircraft or another missile travelling as fast as Mach 14. Another big advantage is that it can track 160 targets at a time and can engage with 72 targets simultaneously. Moreover, the S-400 system is capable of firing different types of missiles that can cover different range, velocity and warhead payload. Due to this unique missile carrying capacity it provides a layered defense. The system can engage all types of aerial targets, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles. Its radar system has anti-stealth capability and it is one of the items that worries America, its NATO allies, and any other nations that bought American pricey F-35 stealth jets. Having S-400 in the arsenal brings down the fifth-generation stealth jets like F-35 and Chinese J-20 at the same level of fourth generation jets that cannot evade radar control systems.

The S-400 is comprised of four core components: 1) the battle management system, consisting of a command post and acquisition radar, 2) as many as six Fire Units and twelve transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) armed up to four missiles, 3) an assortment of surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and 4) the logistical support system for missile storage and equipment maintenance. All system components are carried by self-propelled wheeled all-terrain chassis, and have autonomous power supplies, navigation and geo-location systems, communications and life support equipment.

Comparison with THAAD

Now let's look at the comparative study of S-400 with its main competitor American THAAD system. THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. THAAD is also a surface-to-air missile defense system. It has similar features. But when it comes to direct comparison, S-400 beats THAAD hands down. Starting from operating range to target maximum speed, missile types, launching frequency, S-400 beats its competitor in all compartments. The biggest advantage of S-400 over THAAD is its versatility. THAAD can only hit targets that are at least 50 km above ground till a maximum of 150 km. It makes THAAD useless against fighter jets or long-range tactical aircrafts, making it strictly an anti-missile defense system. Whereas S-400 can destroy targets at a height as low as 10 meters and can reach as high as 185 km. S-400 can hit a target moving as fast as Mach 14 or 14 times the speed of sound i.e. 17,000 km/hr. Whereas the same parameter for THAAD goes till Mach 8.24 i.e. 10,080 km/hr. Wide variety of missiles and sensors supported in a single battery of S-400 enables it to achieve such a wide range of operation making it a true multi-layered defense system. Battery consists of launchers, command post and multiple radars. On the contrary, THAAD is a single-layered defense system relying on only one type of missile. Moreover, THAAD uses 'hit-to-kill' technique to destroy the targets. ‘Hit-to-kill’ implies the capability to take down a target through the use of kinetic power. It means, these weapons rely on destroying a target by hitting it at high velocity instead of packing an explosive warhead. At present, S-400 does not have this capability, but S-400 missiles carry explosives to destroy its targets. The new missiles 77N6 and 77N6-N1 are supposed to bring this capability as well.


Before closing it should be noted, that India needs to start investing money into designing and manufacturing of such high-end weapon systems. Engaging private enterprises and getting into global partnership for developing such systems must be taken into war footing. India is still one of the top defense importers in the world. India used to retain number one spot in this not-so-desirable list till very recently. This year Russia has already started developing S-550, the latest one in this league. Even though China has bought the S-400 from Russia, it has its own indigenously developed surface-to-air missile system as well. It is called HQ-9 which has similar capability of Russian S-300 and American Patriot systems. China has even sold a variant, HQ-9/P, of its homegrown system to Pakistan and the latter has commissioned it in October 2021.

Lastly, viewers may remember American opposition, diplomacy, lure and finally open threat against India buying S-400 from Russia. America even offered to sell THAAD to dissuade India from buying S-400. Finally, USA threatened to impose CAATSA against India. I know, it is a weird acronym. Its full form is equally weird. Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. India has already faced US sanctions after the nuclear test in 1998. So, it is not a big deal. But America needs to understand that to earn respect, it first needs to learn to give respect. Bullying is not a good long-term tactic. Unfortunately, India also historically does not play well in the negotiation table with the big powers. Iran used to be India's strategic partner and India used to be a large importer of Iranian oil. After American sanction against Iran and same bullying tactics, India was forced to switch almost all of its oil import from US-friendly, Saudi Arabia. Import from Iran came down to naught in 2019. We all know how important Iran was for India in regards to regional power balance, especially with Pakistan in the equation. I am glad, at least this time India has shown some spine. 

0 $type={blogger}:

Post a Comment