In the better part of the last century, India has been plagued by the problems arising from the rampant activities of its unstable neighbours. Over the years, Pakistan and China have evolved to be close partners and are now sustaining each other’s activity in a wild chase to catch up a rapidly growing India. The boom in Chinese economy has triggered an arms race of its own in South East Asia. Both of these lunatic regimes have now deployed some of the most modern long range delivery weapon system. These systems are capable of striking deep within India’s heartland, if left unchecked. Ranging from aircraft to drones, the deployment of these systems has increased by two folds over the past decade. India’s skies are no longer safer and with such deadly weapons in the hands of its enemies; India is always vulnerable to air borne attacks. Maintaining the sanity of the sky and bringing down any unwarranted activity over its territory has been a clear cut task for the Indian Air Force.
India’s current air defense network is formed around two principle components, Air Defense Ground Environment System (ADGES) and the Base Air Defense Zones (BADZ). The BADZ is formed centric around interceptors, radars, AAA and SAM units. These systems are deployed as a defensive barrier around vital sites. These systems are highly effective and can provide intense cover against any air borne threats. The ADGES is formed to scour the vast skies and take down threats violating India’s air space and employs S-125 Pechora-1b SAM units to guard any unwarranted intrusions. OSM-AKM mobile SAM’s, SA-8b’s, Bofor AAA guns and MANPADS have also been deployed extensively as the basic air defense systems. Important military installations, industries and allied installations throughout the country are being currently guarded against air threats by V-750 Dvina launchers. India has recently inducted Akash SAM systems and these systems are being currently deployed in a rapid rate.
Currently India’s basic air defense system is formed around Soviet era SAM systems. An urgent need for the upgradation of these systems has been called for at the top levels. The future of India’s air defense system will be formed around the Israeli designed SPYDER SAM system and the home grown Akash SAM system. The range of SPYDER is estimated to be around 15 KM and that of Akash varies somewhere between 25-30 KM. These systems are highly capable and are equipped to intercept any low level air borne threats at a moment’s notice. However, the real deficit in India’s arsenal is long range interceptor systems. India has already constituted missile developmental programs with Israel and France for acquiring Medium-Range SAM systems in the near future. The developmental phase alone is expected to last for another 1-2 years and the system can be deployed only after 2017-18. Countering the 4++ generation and 5-generation fighter jets deployed by the Chinese has been a huge head-ache for the Air force. These fighters clubbed with their stealth package are capable of penetrating India’s shield and decimating strategic targets.
These modern aircraft can fly at extremely high altitude and have a very high cruise speed. These jets can be brought down only if a Long-Range SAM system is deployed. The development of these systems is extremely complex and can take years to mature. Even though India has constituted several indigenous programs to bridge this gap, unfortunately none of the projects have matured and India is yet to find a suitable system to counter these advanced delivery platforms. Now in an effort to answer this threat, India is being rumoured to have approached its all weather friend Russia to acquire the S-400 Triumf air defense system. These rumours have sprouted at a time when India’s Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar is slated to visit Russia in the late October.
The relationship India and Russia share is unique and is built around trust and is time-tested. Both the nations have a long-standing and wide ranging co-operation in the field of defense. The relationship has evolved from a buyer-seller framework to a complex relationship involving the nations in joint research, development and production to spruce up the defense posture of both the nations. Highly sophisticated products have been brought out in regular intervals through this unique relationship. Kremlin has allowed India to get through its usually drawn Iron curtains. The relationship shared between India and Russia is undoubtedly an example to be followed in the complex world of Diplomacy.
Reports of India gunning for the S-400 systems have taken credibility with top defense officials confirming to various new papers of a possible government to government deal happening soon. The S-400 Triump systems themselves are high reliable and proven interceptor systems. The system has been opened up for exports and India’s neighbour China has already placed orders for the systems and is awaiting delivery, which is expected to start anywhere in the late 2016. Nicknamed SA-21 Growler by the NATO, S-400 is a long range air defense system capable of striking targets as far as 400+ kilometres with pin-point accuracy. It was developed specifically to meet the growing demand of Russian forces to target NATO aircraft.
The S-400 Triump system was designed around the S-300 air defense system. The S-300 system was primarily designed to intercept aircraft and cruise missile and had an expected range of 150 kilometres. The deployment of long range cruise missiles and modern aircraft to the European bases led Russia to start a program for an extended range system that could boost interceptor ranges of 300+ kilometres. The S-300 system is a highly proven system and had already met half the stipulated range, thus Russia constituted a program based around the S-300 in the late 1990. By 1999, Russia had tested a long-range system with speculated ranges of 350+ kilometres. By February 2004, Russia formally announced the successful development of the system. In April 2004 the system successfully intercepted a ballistic missile and proved its might. Russia inducted the system into forces in 2007 and till date is speculated to have acquired 2 battalions of this highly sophisticated system. Each battalion is expected to have 7-8 launchers and each battalion is estimated to cost a whopping US $200 million.
S-400 Triump system can be designated as a three stage interceptor system, which houses three different missiles to counter multiple targets at multiple ranges. Extremely long range targets are obliterated by 40N6 missile. The 48N6 missile is charged with acquiring long range threats. Medium range targets are annihilated by 9M96E2 missile system and the 9M96E missile system can bring down short range targets. The 40N6 missile system is a long range weapon system, which can strike targets as far as 400 kilometres. The missile is equipped with active and semi-active homing seekers that assists in swift interception of ELINT platforms. The missile is speculated to house a two staged motor being powered by a solid propellant. Till date the details about this potent missile system is classified and not even a single document in regard to the missile’s fullest capabilities has been revealed.
The 48N6 missile system is capable of striking targets around 250+ kilometres. This missile system was derived from the existent S-300 system and was further equipped with more powerful propulsion systems. This meant the system could attain extremely high speeds, thus exponentially increasing the kinetic energy acquired by the system during its flight. The missile system is speculated to attain speeds up to 6.23 Mach. The 9M96E2 weapon system was derived from the 9M96E missile platform. The missile system was designed basically for direct impact roles. ‘Hittiles’, systems designated for direct impact roles are expected to posses extremely high Kinetic Energy. As the Kinetic Energy of the system increase so does the impact force and this can wipe out any targets. The missile is extremely nimble and carries a 24kg blast fragmentation warhead and a proximity triggered radio fuse for detonation. The missile can strike targets up to 120+ kilometres away.
The S-400 Triump system employs multiple radar systems for acquiring, intercepting and firing the weapon systems. The 96L6 or Cheese board radar system is the Surveillance and tracking radar for the system. 96L6 radar is multiphase array radar that detects air targets and further measures the range, elevation and azimuth of the acquired target. The 92N6E radar is designated as the Fire and Control radar for the S-400 air defense system. Nicked named Grave Stone by NATO, this system is extremely capable and can prioritise targets, compute launch data and provide mid-course updates to the missile system. The 91N6E aka Big Bird radar is the acquisition radar system. The Big Bird is capable of acquiring targets at about 600+ kilometres and can track up to 300 targets simultaneously. This radar is also the battle management system for the S-400 Triump system.
The system employs 55K6E as the control and command system. The system is based on Ural-532301 mobile command post vehicle. The 55K6E is employed to control all components in the battery and is the nerve centre of the system. This can be used to communicate, integrate, collect, compile and execute complex tasks to fire the missile system.
There has been an acute need for long range air defense systems in the inventory of Indian forces. There is no better partner than Russia for India to rely on; the relations are time tested and have matured sustaining each other. The S-400 system is based on the proven S-300 missile system; the system is undoubtedly a step better than the S-300. Capable of striking targets over 400+ kilometres away and engaging 36 targets the addition of S-400 will be a big boost to the Indian forces. No long range systems are currently present in India’s inventory and the addition of this system will surely make the enemies think twice before crossing into India’s air space. Only time can reveal if India will place any orders for this state-of-the-art system.