India's decision to augment its air defence with the Russian S-400 Triumf missile system (NATO code: SA-21 Growler) can change the entire military dynamics of the subcontinent. The S-400 Triumf air defence missile, which has been in service with the Russian forces since 2007, is considered to be the best in the world and is much more advanced than any western system. Once deployed on the borders with China and Pakistan, the Indian forces will gain the capability of shooting down aerial targets emerging from the two countries before they pose any threat to our country. The missiles deployed with the S-400 Triumf are capable of travelling at a rate of 4.8 kilometres per second (17,000 km/h; Mach 14).
The S-400 Triumf missile system, which can engage targets independently as well as after receiving data from others radars, is the fourth generation of long-range Russian Surface-to-Air-Missiles (SAMs). The highly mobile, ground-based S-400 Triumf can detect, track and shoot down multiple targets including cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, aircraft, drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It can target ballistic missiles in their terminal (descent or reentry) phase. The entire system consists of a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, command and control centre.
The system can fire the following missiles - 48N6DM/48N6E3 (range 250km), 40N6 (range 400km, maximum altitude 185 km), 9M96E (range 40 km, maximum altitude 20 km) and 9M96E2 (range 120km, maximum altitude 30 km). At present, the S-400 Triumf system employs missiles which use a 143-kilogramme high-explosive fragmentation to kill the incoming aerial threat. But another missile 77N6 is under development which will have the hit-to-kill capability like the US Patriot air defence system. While the current system can destroy missiles as well as aircraft and drones, the 77N6 will be specifically deployed to target the ballistic missile threat.
The operational range of the S-400 Triumf is up to 400 kilometres, but it can detect targets which are 600 km away. The system is capable of detecting and tracking 300 targets and engaging 36 aircraft/UAVs/drones and 72 missiles simultaneously. It can take down aircraft/UAVs/drones at a range of 2-400 km. The system can shoot an incoming missile at a range of 5-60 km and at an altitude of 2-27 km.
Capable of operating effectively in a temperature range of -50 degree Celcius to +50 degree Celcius, the S-400 Triumf self-propelled system can travel at a rate of 60km per hour on metalled roads. Its speed on unmetalled road is 40 km/h and across the country it is 25 km/h. The system can fire a missile in just five minutes after it is deployed.
Russia and India are likely to announce the deal before an annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2018. But India's decision has not gone down well in the US.