S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems
Indian government has cleared a proposal to buy five units of S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia. (frame grab)Reuters

Indian Defence ministry's Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared the purchase of five Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, one of the most advanced aid defence systems in the Russian inventory. It is estimated that the systems will cost Rs 40,000 crore.

The purchase of S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems will not only augment India's air defence, but will also rattle its neighbour, Pakistan, which recently tested its Shaheen 1A ballistic missile that has a range of 900 kms. On the other hand, China had earlier confirmed its purchase of 6 battalions of the air defence system.

Once the deal is signed, India will only be the second country to buy these systems after China.

The Economic Times noted that India will buy five units of this system that has the ability to intercept and take down any hostile missiles (ballistic and hypersonic), drones and aircrafts in its performance envelope that has a range of 400 km. S-400 air defence systems can engage with multiple targets, up to six targets simultaneously.

There might be no "Make-in-India" factor in the deal as it could be a government-to-government contract.

Defence News has reported that prior to PM Modi's visit to Moscow, between 24 and 25 December, an advance team will head to the Russian capital to negotiate the purchase of the S-400 systems. The purchase resonates in PM Modi's recent statement where he said that "India attached the highest importance to the strategic and privileged partnership with Russia." However, it is not known if the deal will be inked during PM Modi's visit to the country.

With the purchase of these systems, the Indian Air Force will be able to plug the gaps in its Air Defence capability as the S-400 systems use three different missiles to cover its performance envelope -- extreme long range, long range and medium range.

The S-400 systems have a faster firing rate (2.5 times) than its predecessor S-300. Previously, in October, there were reports that suggested Indian might buy 12 units of the S-400 system.

The S-400 is one of the most feared air defence systems in the world. It was recently deployed in the war-torn Syria (at the Hmeimim airbase near the Syrian port city of Latakia) after the downing of the Russian SU-24 jet by Turkey, alarming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

To understand the potential power of the S-400 systems, Moscow -- the seat of power in Russia -- is protected by these systems. It was earlier reported that by 2020, the S-400 systems will become the cornerstone of Russian air and missile defence.

Salient features of S-400's performance (Sputnik News):

  • Maximum target speed â€“ Up to 4,800 m/s
  • Engagement range of air targets â€“ Maximum is 250 kms, minimum is 3 kms
  • Altitude limits for aerodynamic target â€“ Maximum is 27 kms and minimum is 0.01 km
  • Striking range of tactical ballistic targets â€“ Maximum is 60 kms and minimum is 5 kms
  • Altitude limits for ballistic target â€“ Maximum is 27 kms and minimum is 2 kms
  • Mobile deployment time â€“ 5 minutes
  • Stand-by deployment time â€“ 3 minutes
  • Developer â€“ Almaz Antei Design Bureau, Russia

India is yet to finalise the Joint Development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) deal with Russia that will see India getting PAK FA T-50 stealth aircrafts.

The DAC, the highest body under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has also cleared other proposals that will give a boost to the country's defence system even as Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that the country is ready to provide its armed forces against an operation with Daesh/ISIS but under an UN flag.

Some of the other proposals that were cleared include:

  • Indian Army's proposal to buy six regiment of Pinaka rocket system under the 'Make in India' category given Acceptance of Necessity.
  • DAC okayed proposal to buy 571 light bullet-proof vehicles for counter insurgency operations.
  • It okayed a proposal to buy 120 trawls to be used on T-72 and T-90 tanks.
  • Green signalled the digitisation of Pechora Air Defence system.
  • Cleared the Indian Army proposal for electronic warfare system for mountainous operations.