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Rajya Sabha TV In Depth S 400 Air Defence System

Rajya Sabha TV In Depth S 400 Air Defence System

India has recently completed negotiations on a Rs 40,000 crore deal to buy S-400 Triumph air defence systems from Russia. India wants the missile system to tighten its air defence mechanism against both China and Pakistan. But, the United States which is emerging as a strong ally at present times, has strong reservations against the Indo-Russian deal.


  • Missile defence is a system, weapon or technology involved in detection, tracking, interception and tracking of attacking missiles. The United States, Russia, China, India, Israel and France have all developed such air defence systems.
  • Surface-to-air missile is a missile designed to destroy aircraft or other missiles. Attempts to develop them started during World War II and first operational systems were introduced in 1950s.

Examples: Nike Ajax and Patriot (United States), S-75 (Soviet Union), S-300 (Soviet Union and later Russia), etc.

  • The Cold War saw Soviet Union and America locked in an arms race. Both tried to establish supremacy in nuclear warfare and state of arts arsenal. Russia was the part of Soviet Union that developed fighter and bomber aircrafts like MIG, TU and SU series. They were fast, strong and durable.
  • Meanwhile in United States companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing developed fighter aircrafts that were superior in terms of technology and range. Both countries developed 3rd, 4th and 5th generations of fighter aircrafts. But, Soviet Union could not surpass America and so it was forced to further develop its interceptor aircrafts.
  • US is bordered by oceans on both the sides. So, defence features of its ballistic missile which are of high ranges are different from what India requires. While, Russia is a continental power and it has requirement of both the long-range ballistic missile threat neutralisation as well as aircraft attack. Same is the case with India.
  • A list of surface-to-air missiles by countries is:


CountrySurface-to-air missile
ChinaTY, HQ series, Sky Dragon, QW series, etc
FranceMasurca, AS-20, Roland, etc
GermanyRoland, IDAS and LFK NG
IndiaAkash, QRSAM, Barak 8, Trishul, Pradyumna, Ashwin and PDV Ballistic Missile Interceptor
Israel Arrow, Barak and SPYDER
United StatesFIM, MIM, CIM, RIM, series and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD)
USSR/Russian Federation2K series, 9K series, S-200, S-300, S-400 and S-500
North KoreaKN6


  • Russia’s Defence arsenal:

1967: Soviet Union developed S-200 Angara Air Defence System, capable of targeting most advanced aircraft or missile. It is in service even today.

1978: Soviet Union developed S-300 Air Defence System, an upgrade to S-300. This long range surface-to-air missile is still in use today.

1991: Soviet Union was dissolved, officially granting self-governing independence to the Republics of Soviet Union. Thus, 15 independent republics like Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Turkmenistan, etc were formed. Russia got a major chunk of weapons and defence technology of Soviet Union.

Russia continued to make weapons better and stronger.

2007: Russia deployed S-400 Air Defence System. It is considered most advanced Air Defence System in the world today.

Russia is developing S-500 defence system, likely to be deployed by 2020.

S-400 Triumph launch vehicle

  • NATO countries objected strongly to reports of Russia giving its systems to Iran and Syria. Russia has now offered its highly advanced Air Defence System to India, which has agreed to purchase five of S-400 Air Defence Systems. Before India, Russia has only sold this system to China even though Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Belarus are eyeing it also.
  • This is the first time that Russia is providing a different system to India, a departure from its tradition of supplying only attacking weapons.
  • India and Russia have several major joint military programmes including:
  1. Brahmos cruise missile programme
  2. 5th generation fighter jet programme
  3. Sukhoi SU-30 MKI programme, etc.

                Various military hardware purchased/leased from Russia include:

  1. S-400 Triumph (purchase pending)
  2. T-90S Bhishma, a 3rd generation Russia battle tank
  3. INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier programme, etc.
  • India needs high end weapons for very valid reasons. It is the only country in the world that is flanked by two nuclear armed neighbours– Pakistan and China. It has fought wars with both of these.
  • But the United States has raised concerns of India purchasing S-400 system. It is objecting on two counts. The official count is that US has a legal position where any country that is taking systems or military equipment from there adversaries, the US expects to put sanctions on that country. The other count is that US is planning to put F 16 factories in India and sell drones to it.
  • India maintains close military relations with both United States and Russia. But over the years, Russia has been the largest supplier of military weapons to India. In 2012-2016, Russia (68%), US (14%) and Israel (7.2%) were the major arms suppliers to India.
  • About S-400 Air Defence System:
  1. It was deployed in 2007 in Russian Army.
  2. It is among the best air defence systems.
  3. It is based on a multifunctional system that can drop missiles at different speeds.
  4. It can target aircrafts (up to 5th generations), cruise and ballistic missiles by supersonic and hypersonic missiles of the system.
  5. It can address the incoming targets at a range of 400 kms and a height of 30-40 kms.
  6. It can neutralise 36 targets at one time in the range of 400 kms.
  7. Its radar detection system has a range of 600kms and can target 100-300 targets.
  8. It has 12 launchers equipped with missiles which can be launched within 5 minutes.
  • The S-400 Air Defence System will give India the power to secure its land and air boundaries. Its unique system makes it indispensable against Pakistan and China and will also protect it from there nuclear threats. Its deployment in a way makes it impossible for enemy missiles to enter Indian air space.
  • India will be able to secure a nearly 4000 km long boundary line with China. It will be easy to track activities of Chinese army in Tibet.
  • India can track activities of Pakistani Air Force in Afghanistan. Its system will cover Pakistan’s entire air base.


India is the second largest market for Russia’s defence industry. Russia is the chief supplier of defence equipment to India. With threats always a possibility from both China and Pakistan, India needs to keep its defence systems strong. Purchase of S-400 Air Defence System will help India in keeping its land boundaries and air space more secure and shall be looked forward to.