India has moved a step closer to acquiring S-400 Truimf anti-aircraft missiles. On Friday Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that ‘Pre-contract preparations are underway on the supplies of S-400 anti-aircraft missile complexes”.
The announcement came on the second day of prime minister Modi’s visit to Russia, where he’s holding talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin in his hometown St Petersburg.
The deal to buy S-400s was first announced in October last year, just ahead of the 17th Annual India-Russia Summit in Goa.
According to the manufacturer, S-400s can track up to 300 targets at a time and hit targets 250 kilometres away. One US aviator told The National Interest’s David Majumdar, the S-400 was “A complete game changer for all fourth-gen aircraft [like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18]. That thing is a beast”.
Inducting the S-400 would be an important step in shoring up India’s air defences. But India is not the only potential customer. Russia has made the S-400 an integral part of its arms diplomacy. It has offered them to Turkey, a country it has been trying to wean away from NATO. Russia has also agreed to sell the system to China at least 48 S-400 launchers, with deliveries slated to begin in 2018. Pakistan too has been considering buying the system, budgets permitting.
That Russia is trying to sell such a sensitive and high-end system to India’s adversaries says something about the state of India-Russia relations, something I’ll bring up early next week when I review Modi’s visit.