Finally, India has begun to receive S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, despite threats of US sanctions.

The first unit of which will be deployed near the western front. But conflicting information from the Indian media shows that this decision of the Indian government has caused fierce controversy.

According to indiandefensenews, India’s nearly completed, $5.43 billion purchase of Russian S-400 air-defence systems raises serious obstacles to closer politico-military relations between Washington and New Delhi. It requires rigorous strategic thinking to avoid hampering deeper policy relationships within the Asian “Quad” (the U.S., India, Japan and Australia), compromising America’s stealth technology or jeopardizing seemingly mundane but often critical issues of interoperability among national militaries.

S-400 Air Defense System
S-400 Air Defense System

On the other hand, Russia’s S-400 air defense system is rated by Indian media and defense experts as “the best in the world”, “the game changer”, “sky killer” or “Pakistan and China are scared by the S-400”. Accordingly, the S-400 is a mobile air defense system, capable of intercepting a variety of aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and other aerial targets. It is also capable of intercepting ballistic missiles; and has been in service with the Russian Army since 2007.

The S-400 system can use up to 5 types of missiles: including 9M96E with a range of 40 km, 9M96E2 with a range of 120 km, 48N6E2 with a range of 200 km, 48N6E3 with a range of 250 km, and 40N6 with a range of 400 km. However, whether the S-400’s fire control radar can support the 40N6 missile to its full effect at a range of 400 km is still controversial. Although all of these missiles use high explosive fragmentation warheads, their accuracy may not be very high.

In 2018, the S-400 was exported to China. In December 2020, Turkey also received the S-400, causing a crisis in relations between Turkey and Western countries. The S-400 has also been sold to Belarus.

According to the Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI, the overall capabilities of the S-400 have been overestimated. However, the ability of this system, in defending the area, is much weaker than what is commonly predicted. When tracking for low-flying maneuverable targets such as cruise missiles and fighter jets, the S-400 encounters many problems, limiting its effective range. For low-altitude targets, the effective range can be as little as 20-35 km, or even shorter, depending on different terrain.

Military expert Sebastian Roblin pointed out that the design purpose of the 40N6 missile is not primarily intended for supersonic fighters, but rather “big and slow”, with poor maneuverability, such as early warning aircraft, refueling aircraft and other large aircraft flying at medium and high altitudes. Another opinion is that the S-400 system can be deployed in just 5 minutes but only suitable for plains, not mountainous areas; even the time required in these areas can be 45-90 minutes.

India chose the Russian S-400 over the US Patriot PAC-3. One thing is for sure, the Russian S-400 system is much cheaper than the US Patriot, while the performance and use of the Patriot is only comparable to the S-400 system.

Although the US claims that its Patriot successfully intercepted 40% of Iraqi Scud missiles fired at Israel during the Gulf War. However, Generals Dan Shomron and Haim Asa of the Israel Defense Forces stated that the Patriot could successfully intercept only a small number of Scud missiles.

If a combat-tested air defense system like the Patriot is questioned, what about the untested S-400’s performance in combat? And it is completely understandable that the S-400 is questioned about its real combat ability.

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