India will begin receiving its first regimental set of Russian-made Almaz-Antei S-400 Triumf air defense systems (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) in October 2020, according to a senior Indian defense official. Delivery of the four remaining systems will be completed by April 2023, the minister said in response to a question by an opposition MP. The S-400 deal was signed in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 19th India-Russia bilateral annual summit held in New Delhi on October 5, 2018. India had inked the $5.43 billion (Rs 40,000 crore) contract for the S-400 systems with Russia on October 5 last year.
The S-400 systems can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, jets, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km, India plans to boost its air defence coverage along the unresolved borders with China and Pakistan as well as around cities like New Delhi. The highly automated and mobile S-400 systems, with their associated battle-management system of command posts and launchers, long-range acquisition and engagement radars, and all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, have four different kinds of missiles with strike ranges from 120-km to 380-km.
The minister also downplayed the likelihood of Washington sanctioning New Delhi for the purchase under the former’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is designed to prevent countries from buying materiel from Moscow. The U.S. government is still considering the imposition of economic sanctions on India under U.S. legislation. CAATSA, which came into effect in January 2018, is meant to economically and financially punish countries engaging in “significant transactions” with the Russian state-owned defense industry.
The Indian government is aware of all developments that may impact the procurement of the S-400 air defense systems. India is persisting in its decision to purchase the S-400s despite strong opposition from the United States. The government takes sovereign decisions based on threat perceptions, operational and technical aspects to keep the armed forces in a state of readiness to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges. CAATSA sanctions appear to be unlikely in any case as there is a growing consensus in the U.S. government that the evolving strategic partnership with India should not be jeopardized by CAATSA.