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The impact of India’s S-400 purchase
June 27, 2017
S-400. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The impact of India’s S-400 purchase

During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Moscow, India and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) over the Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.

Under the $4.5 to $5 billion U.S. deal, India expects to receive the first batch of these systems from 2020. The S-400 purchase has been heralded as a ‘game-changer’ and a means to imbue India with an ‘edge’ against its regional adversaries – China and Pakistan.

In the aftermath of a Russian Air Force (VVS) Su-24 kill at the hands of a Turkish Air Force F-16, Moscow deployed the S-400 to Syria in order to support its expeditionary forces with direct air defence cover and – at least in the view of numerous observers – provide deterrence.

Whatever Russia’s intention behind deploying the S-400, the decision to send it to Syria certainly drew a high level of attention to the system. At this stage, many will be familiar with the S-400’s marquee missile – the 40N6 – which has a maximum engagement range of 400 km. In tandem, the S-400 also comprises of the 250 km range 48N6 as well as the medium-to-long-range 120km 9M96E2 and 40km 9M96E.

While generally viewed as a long-range SAM system, the S-400 is a comprehensive suite in that it is aimed to address a wide range of aerial threats, from long-range strategic threats (such as bombers) to stealthy low-flying cruise missiles. Its range coverage can span from as short as 40 km to as far as 400 km. The S-400’s principal radar – i.e. the 92N6E Grave Stone – can track 100 targets and simultaneously engage up to six (via its paired anti-air missiles). Its phased-array design is ascribed with effective electronic counter-counter measures (ECCM) capabilities, enabling it to withstand enemy radar jamming systems. Finally, the S-400 (in line with its Russian predecessors) is also a mobile system, thereby giving its users considerable flexibility in terms of deploying, withdrawing, and re-deploying the system.

Under the multi-billion-dollar deal, New Delhi is to procure five S-400 systems. The specific details of what India will be receiving have not yet been disclosed, but given the amount in question, it would be a surprise if the 48N6 (250 km) and 40N6 (400 km) missiles are not included. It is not clear how many launchers each S-400 system includes, though an image on Air Power Australia suggests that it should be at least four.

At first thought, one would assume that India has every incentive to station a number of S-400 systems – potentially up to three – in fairly close proximity to Pakistan. If equipped with the 40N6 missile, grounding the S-400 in the heart of Indian Punjab would enable India to stifle the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from flying in key areas in its Central Command theatre (which is responsible for protecting Lahore, the country’s inland economic hub and second largest city). Similar positioning and results can be had in the south (in terms of Karachi) and the north (in terms of Kashmir).

India need not deploy the S-400 in that manner (at least permanently), though the incentive to pre-empt Pakistan from utilizing its aerial assets (which carry a number of the country’s pre-emptive stand-off range munitions) is certainly there and should not be dismissed. In fact, the risk of India taking such a course is something Pakistani defence planners would be wise to acknowledge and work to address. Moreover, India’s other air defence investments (e.g. Barak) provide it with ample opportunity to build medium-to-long range SAM applications for more conservative air defence deployments.

In general, Pakistan’s options to address the S-400, at least in terms of practical implementation, would be to (1) form a strong air defence umbrella over its own airspace, (2) greatly expand its asymmetrical offensive capabilities, and (3) heavily invest in defensively sound electronic warfare (EW) and electronic countermeasures (ECM) capabilities (to protect aerial assets and to pursue the S-400).

All three elements will require considerable financial investment; in lieu of certain long-term economic progress, Pakistan can, at best, pursue a partial solution (i.e. one or two of the three components) and further pivot towards its strategic deterrence element. This will be discussed in terms of the S-400 in a later article, and further elaborated upon in the series “Pakistan’s Pursuit of Force-Multipliers.

  • Abdul Rashid

    Bilal, thanks for this article. Very appreciated.

  • GhalibKabir

    Makes sense and well elucidated if I may add. the point defense + area defense gets a clearer image imho, so an air-defense net might look like follows in the 2020s at least in the western border of India

    I ignore MANPADS

    Point Defense focus
    1. Short-Low Medium Range: Tungushka/Barak 1/future LLQRM/Python (part of SPYDER MR-SAM)

    upto 25 km

    2. Medium Range-Lower end of Long Range: Akash/Derby (SPYDER MR SAM)/SA-series/land based Barak 8

    25 km upwards till 70-90 km

    Area Defense Focus

    3. Long Range incl. LRSAM, limited BMD: Mainly S-400 on borders with barak-8 playing a support role as needed, with S-300PMU/local made system for defense of cities/key installations

    > 90 km all the way to 250-400 km (assuming 40N6 is given)

    All these to be supported by 3-5 Phalcon AWACS, DRDO AEW in the sky…

  • MT

    With your logic pak has far open borders fence on Afghanistan India border nd zero loc fencing so Indian agency can sabotage most of pak weaponry

  • MT

    India ll use spider man pad akash Barak8 nd s400 to handle saturation attack.s400 ,ll be protected by super akash barak8 all of which ll be huge in nos.
    Moreover s400 is mobile platform and India is offensive force so most of ur CM pgm at around sites ll be destroyed by Indian attack

  • Quraishi

    I’m not really fond of this idea if force multiplayers, as the article mentions at the end, I mean there has to be sufficient force to multiply in the first place.
    As I always say only proper long term deterrent is a strong that can allow for the huge investments needed in the latest technology and systems.
    Patch up work can not be sustained in the long term.
    Apart from the alternate of engageing India military and destroying its capacity before such advance systems are deployed.

  • Quraishi

    Apart from the missiles , it’s radar is also one of the best and not sure but can be used for heavy jamming perhaps and air surveillance.

  • Salman Khan

    No dear. The airforce whose first pilots were trained by the finest WW2 pilots have always proved up to the task. Air Commodore Turowicz left an airforce that was always second to none. That’s why India freaks out with just a deal of 8 F-16s citing a potential “tilt” in the “balance” of the region.

  • Freebird

    Balance of power in terms of military is shifting against Pakistan. India invests heavily on military. If there is no use of it in near future, India will suffer the expense in vain. So much expending shows the intention of India. They prepare for a war. And what is worse, nuclear cability seems can’t save Pakistan from a disaster. Just like China in 50’s, Modi thinks Indian loss, in a nuclear war, is something expendable and he strenghens his move with air defense. International public opinion seems also against Pakistan as India succeed to present Pakistan as mother of terrorism. In such a situation, best way is to act according to international laws for Pakistan.

    • Abdul Rashid

      Freebird, India’s Modi government has certainly tried hard to present Pakistan as the mother of terrorism but I would not say they have succeeded. Pakistan recently carried out joint military exercises with Russia and Iran. Pakistan enjoys excellent relations with Turkey and China, procures weapon systems from the USA, Russia and China. Pakistan’s relations with South Africa and Brazil are sound and has no issues with most countries of the world. Does not sound much like the mother of terrorism! Disputes between India and Pakistan need to be addressed and resolved peacefully. Modi repeating his “Pakistan Terrorist” mantra won’t make Pakistan the mother of terror.

      • Freebird

        Personally, I have no suspicion on Pakistan, but what I read in newspapers and comments under articles looks to me western public opinion works against Pakistan. There is great challenge among world powers and both US and Russia try to attract India on their side. India is also a lucrative market for their defense industry. I think they would not interfere during a war except meaningless calls for peace. Modi is a psychopath and warmongering. You guys should avoid war at all cost. Peace can invalidate Modi’s extreme military expenses and bunkrupt them. And if Pakistan still insist on rivalry, you guys then need at least naval missiles to break blockade, better air defense, reliable bvr missiles, aesa radars on fighters. None is present unfortunatelly.

        • Headstrong

          If words such as ‘psycopath’ can go through, I hope my comments are kosher too.

          The lust for power exhibited by the (other) Sharif is now evident. He will not be satisfied with the title of Field Marshal – after all, he can grab that anytime he wishes. Who’s to stop him anyway? He will give himself an extension and seek ‘revenge’ for the strikes of 29 Sep. Escalation has always been Pakistan’s go to strategy. It is Pakistan which is revisionist – India has always been status quo-ist. The statements emanating from the senior hierarchy in Pakistan (including the Defence Minister’s nuclear blabbering) show who’s warmongering

          • Abdul Rashid

            Hi Headstrong, your comment expressing your opinion is kosher enough for me to clear for approval. We just ask for no abusive language, no insulting other users, on topic and the main body of the comment to be in English (understandably some guys like to use the odd Urdu/Hindi word as is typical of forums dealing with Ind-Pak issues). We occasionally block comments even if they meet the criteria if deemed likely to trigger an insult exchange. When that happens no need to take it personal. As I said before, and I hope most people would agree, both me and Bilal apply the rules impartially.

            BTW, I believe Freebird is from Turkey not a Pakistan.

          • Headstrong

            I reserve comments on your assertion, out of experience.

            And my response to Freebird is based on his comment, not on his nationality. I would have said the same even if he was Indian.

          • Abdul Rashid

            Yes I do realise you did not mention anything specific about Freebird’s nationality. Just that, and I might be wrong, the “other Sharif” might make more sense to Pakistanis and Indians than others. I was going to clarify in the comment but doing this between hectic work schedule.

  • Okarus

    no. It’s the same case with SU-35. It’s not they don’t have good enough system, but they simply want to learn as much as possible from others.

  • Imam Amanullah

    I am not comparing HQ-9 to S-400 but HQ-9 an be easily acquired by Pakistan and it best suits the condition of the country.
    And the reason why China bought S-400 is to get latest technology ,Reverse it’s technology to produce their own system. And believe me Chinese version of S-400 will be competitor to S-500.

  • Abdul Rashid

    What I would agree with is that Indian has much greater influence around the world than Pakistan and can be made to hear the “right t things” were interests converge. The “source” of the terror is very much a victim of terror and has been fighting it relentlessly, that too is recognized by many globally-

    • Headstrong

      I believe that the victim card is played selectively by Pakistan, and no one is really fooled. As Hillary Clinton stated in her book Hard Choices, if you rear snakes in your backyard….
      I don’t deny that India has greater influence. But on this issue, the world has made up its mind without the need for India’s urging, though reminders in the form of statements such as those made recently at the BRICS summit help.

      • Abdul Rashid

        BRICS summit – Modi can issue all the reminder he likes. Nothing will change between Pakistan and it’s relationship with China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia based on Modi’s statement. Time will tell. My comment is here and so is your for future reference.

  • HARSH V ADITYA ( EX ECHELON 4)

    The longest range ballistic missile in Pakistan’s arsenal is shaheen 3 with a range of 2750km. If shaheen 3 has a terminal speed under mach17 then there is a chance of 50% that it can be intercepted by 40n6 missile of s-400 system if detected at proper time and interceptor placed for launch at appropriate place.

  • Imam Amanullah

    Ballistic missiles come from Upside not from front yeah
    And S-400 altitude range somewhere between 40-45 km so shooting down a High speed missile with speed of 4-5 km p/s that means you have 10 second to shoot that missile ,ha ha ha ha it will be like shooting a mortar shell with a Assault rifle. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
    Don’t watch too much Media channels or your mind will explode, use some common sense.

  • Headstrong

    You should know that terminal velocity of a ballistic missile is a function of its range….

    • Abdul Rashid

      Here’s a good one Headstrong, on another topic. Both my comments and yours on the other S-400 thread regarding Pakistan’s isolation have been deleted by Admin. Beat that for impartiality, LOL!

      I fully understand and respect Bilal’s decision. Whatever opinion I express here in whatever words, the intention is always purely to engage, exchange ideas/views and learn. I have many friends from both sides of the border.

      Feel free to catch me another time. My avatar, aircraft taking off indicates I’m away from home and busy. My home periods between work are indicated by a landing aircraft. That is the best time to engage me and when I have a lot more time to formulate delete-proof comments!

  • Abdul Rashid

    Ironic that Modi, a man once denied a visa to the US and who would probably still be denied it today had he not been elected India’s PM, has set about on a mission to isolate Pakistan internationally. It is not “India” talking about diplomatic isolation. It would be more accurate to say it is Modi talking about it. Well, good luck to him. He will need all he can get.

    Not only China but Russia, Brazil and most definitely not Turkey (historic reasons) would ever fall into Modi’s trap. These are counties with significant international clout. We are not talking Afghanistan and Bangladesh here.

    Who is playing who as a puppet on the international stage for their geo-strategic ends can be debated all day and everyday without end and without agreement. Hence I say, let’s just be a little patient – wait and see. How successful will Modi be with his Isolate Pakistan drive the coming months and years will show.

  • Headstrong

    Absolutely. Ballistic missiles are most vulnerable at launch, if within range of ABM capable systems. In the case of Pakistan, S-400 would pretty much cover most of its launch pads.
    Of course, that being said, there is no way every single Pakistani nuclear capable missile would be brought down. Some would inevitably get through.
    However, the moot point is that S-400 is primarily an anti-aircraft system. It would be a very effective deterrent to Pakistan attempting to escalate tensions – well before the nuclear threshold

  • Headstrong

    Not if targeted at launch. No fancy calculations then 🙂

  • Mohsin E.

    Honestly, if I were India, I would not make the mistake of setting up S-400 batteries close to the border with Pakistan (I hope they do make that mistake.) Because all AD systems, with the exception of directed energy weapons, can be saturated and neutralized by swarm attacks. Launching drones and cruise missiles en-masse to target these batteries will be a piece of cake for Pakistan if they are positioned too close… (that’s one very simple, innovative and cheap ‘disruptive idea’ for my friend Abdul 😉

    However, if the Indians place these batteries farther away from the border so that it gives them more time to take defensive measures against incoming swarms, then it would make it much more difficult for the PAF and the Army to target these assets. It would also reduce their offensive usefulness, and render them as more conventional defensive platforms.

    With that said, sneaking in a battery close to the border, and turning it on/off and manevering (like a regular artillery unit) would be very helpful for India. I’d position 3 of these in defensive positions, and use 1 of them in an offensive posture.

  • Imam Amanullah

    ‘Range is not a factor the factor is Speed and Altitude’
    That is what i am trying to teach SS_IND when he says –
    “Ballistic missiles (range up to 3,500 km[48]).”
    Don’t go on range try to go on Speed and the altitude of Missile, just like
    Saheen range is about 2800 k.m. but it’s speed is 17 mach+ and fly over 150-200 k.m. altitude, so forget shooting down a 17 mach+ missile with 4.2 mach+ missile in 5-6 second.

    • HARSH V ADITYA ( EX ECHELON 4)

      40n6 has a speed of Mach 14 and can take out targets at altitude of 185km.

  • GhalibKabir

    Oh I see where you are coming from. By ignore, I did not mean ‘do not invest in MANPADS’. If so, then India will not be continuing to buy the Iglas and later versions of the Stinger (both AAM and MANPADS version if i understand right). For the purposes of the above discussion I set it aside. of course MANPADS will be part of the short range defense systems and will be plugged into army formations and forward air posts near the western border of India.

  • Sami Shahid

    Pakistan should buy S-300

    • AMAN

      Why S-300 and not HQ-9 ?
      HQ-9 is more advance than S-300. In trial shoot by Turkish evaluation team, HQ-9 is the only one manage to hit all targets, not even S-300.
      And Pakistan can get HQ-9 easily than S-300.

  • Chopra TP

    “The new 40N6 missile guarantees a direct hit on a target at a range of 400 kilometers and at heights of up to 185 kilometers – effectively near space.”
    https://www.rt.com/news/239961-near-space-missile-defense/

  • Farhan

    Bilal Sb sorry for being naive, but is it possible to frustrate S-400 with very large number of low tech drones. Just to deplete the first line ammo and create a threat to such an expensive system, so that it withdraws further deep. Just a wild thought.

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