The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas has proven the effectiveness of the Iron Dome air defense system, thanks to its advanced defense capabilities and the ability to intercept missiles from long distances.
The need for such a project is quite high in current times with threats emerging from neighbourhood countries like Pakistan and China. The latter also uses Russia’s S-400 missile system and has deployed several missile batteries across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Now, a similar, ambitious project will be undertaken by India to build its first air defense system which is expected to be deployed by 2028-29. India’s new air defense project is called ‘Kusha’.
The task was assigned to India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and among the requirements of the new weapon will include a target destruction range of up to 350 km, the ability to counter stealth aircraft as well as ballistic missiles. We are talking about creating a similar but more effective air defense complex next to the S-400, this is the strategy India has always pursued to become self-sufficient in defense capabilities.
Notably, the creation of India’s own long-range air defense system is proposed in a rather short time frame, since the first samples will be put into operation in 2028 – 2029, and the total cost of The project is estimated at 2.5 billion USD. From the available details, India plans to equip this air defense system with three types of missiles with ranges of 150, 250 and 350 km, in fact it is a similar approach to what Russia did with the S- 400.
This statement shows that India does not wish to continue receiving the S-400 under the contract signed in 2018 for 5 regiments with a value of up to 5.43 billion USD. The deal was hindered not only by the Russian Federation’s inability to execute the contract on time, but also because Moscow was not willing to provide technological support for New Delhi to produce locally. While Moscow’s already delivered three systems, the delivery of two others is still pending.
Although it has been compared favourably to the S400, there’s a significant difference — in a report on 16 October, the Moscow-based news agency Sputnik said that while the latter can take down long, medium, and short-range threats, Project Kusha aims at the development of only long-range air defence. The LR-SAM system will be also made capable of interacting with an integrated command and control system (IACCS), according to the Times of India.
The system reportedly has a single-shot kill chance of at least 80% and over 90% when two missiles are fired after each other. The surveillance and fire control radars will enable the Indian Air Force (IAF) to effectively monitor the airspace and defend against enemy strikes. Additionally, the firing units of the LR-SAM system will also be able to interact with the IAF’s air command and control system to integrate a wide array of military radars. Overall, this air defense system will significantly boost India’s defence capability and ensure the safety of Indian airspace by detecting and targeting hostile forces from a very long distance.
One scenario mentioned is that Russia will continue to supply S-400 to India under the “cover” of the Kusha domestic air defense missile system, but this is considered unrealistic. Firstly, the delivery deadline starts from 2028, which of course is quite short but certainly does not correspond to the scenario of disguising Russian weapons as Indian weapons. Second, the Kremlin usually announces any arms export contracts with great fanfare. Third, the Russian Federation does not expect its partners to localize one of the main products of its defense industry. And finally, in recent times, India has carried out a joint project with Israel to localize the MR-SAM air defense system, or rather, conversion of the ship-launched Barak 8 into a land-based version. This means having recorded successful and long-term cooperation with another country, a fact that will greatly help India in creating an air defense system similar to the S-400.
But India will need to make significant efforts in creating its own air defense system similar to the S-400, which it can do thanks to reverse engineering when researching weapons purchased from the Russian Federation. According to predictions, India may dismantle the S-400 complex, research and do the same as China in the mid-1990s – the country that, after purchasing the S-300, created its “twin brother” HQ- 9. New Delhi can absolutely do it in 5 years if it allocates adequate resources to the task. Then, as a result, India will not only get its own long-range air defense complex, but also have the opportunity to export it abroad. The ambitious project will launch India into an elite group of countries that possess indigenous capabilities to tackle aerial attacks over long distances.