NEW DELHI: India has now begun final contract negotiations with Russia for the Rs 39,000 crore (over $5.5 billion) acquisition of five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400 km and altitude of 30 km.
India wants to conclude the major deal in the 2018-19 financial year, with the first S-400 surface-to-air (SAM) missile system, with its associated battle-management system of command post and launchers, acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, slated for delivery two years after the contract is inked.
“All the five S-400 systems, which can even take on medium-range ballistic missiles, apart from cruise missiles, will be delivered in 54 months. The force-multiplier will change the dynamics of air defence in the region,” a defence ministry source said.
India’s final commercial negotiations with Russia after extensive field trials come at a time when China has already begun to get deliveries of six S-400 batteries – designated ‘SA-21 Growler’ by NATO – under a $3 billion deal inked in 2014.
There were, however, reports that some auxiliary components of the S-400 systems being shipped to China from Russia were damaged in a storm last week. Russia, which has deployed the S-400 in Crimea for airspace protection along the Ukraine border, is also set to sell the air defence systems to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
India can deploy the highly-mobile S-400 system to protect a city during war, or even use it to neutralise Pakistan’s short-range Nasr (Hatf-IX) nuclear missiles. Pakistan often recklessly brandishes its Nasr missiles as a battlefield counter to India’s ‘Cold Start’ strategy of swift, high-intensity conventional attacks into enemy territory.