India Places $5 Billion Order for S-400 Triumf

 - October 11, 2018, 4:38 AM
Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, then head of procurement for the Indian Air Force, discusses the S-400 system with Almaz-Antey officials during the Defexpo 2018 show. In early October he took over as the new Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force’s Eastern Air Command at Meghalaya. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

On October 6, India placed a firm order worth about $5.5 billion for Russia's Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM). It comes as part of a larger weapons package that includes four Project 11356 frigates and the licensed production of Kamov Ka-226T rotorcraft. According to sources in the negotiating team, the S-400 deal comes without an offset clause so as to decrease costs and speed up shipments, which are due to start in 2020.

The deal was finalized during a two-day official visit of Vladimir Putin to New Delhi. Speaking to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Russian president said: “Our interaction in the sphere of military-technical cooperation is not restricted to weapon shipments. We have also mastered the joint development of advanced military equipment.” His hosts added that Indo-Russian cooperation began in the 1960s and now extends to such high-tech spheres as nuclear power and manned space programs.

Chief of staff of the Indian Land Forces, General Bipin Rawat, was more explicit, stating that India will continue to buy “some technology” from the United States and advanced weapons from Russia despite “threats from Washington,” as India’s non-alignment policy requires. “There is no end in sight to the manner in which we can cooperate [with Russia]. I think the way forward is to see what is best for the nation and strategically important for us," he added.

India finalized the long-negotiated order for the S-400 shortly after news broke that Almaz-Antey had completed firing trials of the 40N6E missile that would complement the 48N6E2/E3 and 9M96/100 missiles already integrated with the Triumf’s fire control system. Unlike the previous generation 48N6E3 with a passive radar head, the 40N6E comes with an active radar seeker that makes it possible to home onto targets at almost twice the distance: 380 km (236 miles) instead of 200 km (124 miles).

India becomes the third nation after China and Turkey to place a firm order for the S-400. The status of the agreement with Saudi Arabia remains uncertain, as the Kingdom has been pressed to buy U.S. systems instead. Iraq, Qatar, and Algeria have also expressed the intent to procure the S-400.

The U.S. Congress has passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which aims to discourage countries from buying weapons from Russia. Last week, the Department of State introduced sanctions against Chinese governmental bodies and officials who were responsible for the purchase of Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and S-400 SAMs, making the first case of CAATSA’s practical implementation to a customer country. President Trump hinted on October 10 that some form of sanctions may be applied against India following the S-400 deal.

An S-300PM2 TEL is unloaded in Syria from a Russian air force An-124. (photo: Russian Ministry of Defense via Zvezda TV)

In the meantime, Russia has delivered what defense minister General Sergei Shoigu described as a “complete battalion” of the S-300 system to Syria, following up its intention to do so in the aftermath of the Il-20 shootdown. The first elements began arriving from Russia in Antonov An-124 transports on September 24. Video released by the Russian defense ministry in early October reveals that the system being delivered to Syria is the S-300PM2, a previously non-exported version. The Syrian deliveries almost certainly come direct from Russian stocks.