Why the deployment of the S-400 missile system in Punjab is a game-changer


New Delhi, first published Dec 21, 2021, 4:21 p.m. IST

Giving a boost to India’s firepower capabilities, the first batch of Russian-made S-400 air defense systems arrived in India on December 20 and could be deployed in the Punjab sector. The delivery of the weapons system coincided with the telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to update on the progress of the bilateral meeting held between them on December 6 as well as on the first-ever 2+2 ministerial dialogue. The S-400 systems will undergo acceptance testing in the presence of Russian officials before being officially deployed.

In 2018, India had signed a deal with Russia to procure five squadrons of S-400 air defense system worth Rs 40,000 crore. By 2023, Russia will deliver all air defense systems to India. Packed with four different missiles with ranges of 40 km, 100 km, 200 km and 400 km, the newly acquired air defense system can detect and engage fighter jets, ballistic missiles and airborne warning and control systems of the opponent in a very short time.

The Punjab sector was chosen to take into account the air threats from India’s two adversaries, Pakistan and China. On numerous occasions, the United States has warned New Delhi of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) action if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal with Moscow. The United States even offered surface-to-air weapons like the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile to India in late 2018. However, air defense systems like the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense did not have the same operational capabilities as the S-400s and the American systems were also much more expensive.

After Punjab, one of the northeastern states will have the next S-400 squadron. Defense analysts and security experts believe that the Russian-made air defense system would be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force and act as a force multiplier in the event of a two-front war.

Speaking to Asianet Newsable, defense analyst Lt. Gen. VK Chaturvedi said: “It’s a game-changing air defense system and a star of the art. It can detect and engage the threats four at a time and track over 100 targets at once.”

Now, “The Theater Air Defense Command is expected to come into being in 2022. These systems will add tremendous capability to our defense potential. It is the best system in the world,” said the former Indian Army officer. , who led the modernization of the artillery in the force. Lt. Gen. Chaturvedi further said, “It (S-400) is deployed in a way that covers both sides – north and west. It will also be deployed in the eastern sector.”

Apart from India, only China has this system in the region. However, China uses the previous version of the weapon, the S-300 air defense system. The S-400 missile system has a 2.5 times faster rate of fire than the S-300. Russia has also developed the advanced version – the S-500 – but Moscow does not want to sell it yet.

According to security and strategy analyst Major General Ashok Kumar, India faces a likely scenario of a two-front war with Pakistan and China across its disputed borders. “Today, Chinese aggression and infrastructure development activities along our northern borders require a flexible and holistic approach to managing and optimizing our limited air assets. air assets in the Indian Air Force has been marginal to say the least,” he said.

“In case of outbreak of conflict between India and China, if and when it happens, Pakistan is likely to step in and help its iron brother. In this case, it becomes cautious for the IAF to preserve its offensive strength along the Chinese front.The S-400, if deployed along the western borders, due to its extremely long range, will be able to provide a robust air defense umbrella over the sector West, allowing the IAF to focus on China,” Major General Ashok Kumar said.

The strategic expert further noted that the deployment of such a long-range weapon system along the Pakistani border will make it possible to target and shoot down enemy aircraft inside their own territory. “With such an arrangement, the majority of air assets can be diverted to the Chinese border if the need arises. If these missiles are deployed on the Western Front, they could take on the majority of the air defense role of the IAF, especially those required for anti-aircraft operations to address the Pakistan Air Force,” he said.

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Last updated Dec 21, 2021 4:22 PM IST


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