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Despite Covid, 100+ IAF personnel are in Russia on S-400 missile training as delivery nears

The delivery of the S-400 missile system was originally scheduled to begin in 2020, but the deadline was extended after payments to Moscow were delayed.

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New Delhi: Over 100 personnel of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are being trained on the S-400 Triumf Air Defence System in Russia, as both countries eye delivery of the system by the end of this year, ThePrint has learnt.

The S-400 system meant for India is already under production in Russia and is undergoing various trials, sources in the defence and security establishment said. 

The trials include high dust and extreme weather withstanding capabilities to suit the Indian demands of operating in the plains, deserts and mountainous terrain.

Sources said the team of over 100 personnel had reached Russia earlier this year and are being trained by a joint team from the Russian military and Almaz Antey, the manufacturers of the system that will become the mainstay of India’s air defence.

Despite US threats of sanction, India had in 2018 ordered five of the S-400 systems.

In March this year, visiting US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had raised the issue of India’s planned procurement of the S-400 and stressed that allies and partners should avoid “any kind of acquisitions that will trigger sanctions”. 

The Modi government had, however, firmly explained that the country’s armed forces have a diversified portfolio.

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The S-400 capabilities

The S-400 is capable of destroying incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones from a minimum range of 2 km to upto 400 km. It also has a tracking capability of nearly 600 km. 

While the delivery of the system was to start in 2020, the payment could only be done in 2019 as US sanctions against Russia made it difficult.

ThePrint had in August last year reported that the delivery will begin only by 2021-end as the contract said, it would be done 24 months from the date of the first payment.   

Sources had then said that the production process of each system involves a lot of computing and coding, which is very specific to the requirements of a particular customer. 

Each S-400 system, known as a battery, consists of long-range radar, a command post vehicle, target acquisition radar and two battalions of launchers (each battalion has eight). Each launcher has four tubes.

Each component of the system — command post, the radars, and the launchers — is mounted on multi-axle, multi-wheel Ural carriers that have the capability to move on uneven terrains. 

This capability makes the batteries difficult to detect because they can keep changing locations, besides expanding the missile engagement zone (MEZ).

Among best defence systems

The S-400 can be armed with four different types of missiles with ranges of 400 km, 250 km, 120 km and 40 km. 

The specialised radar can track more than 100 flying objects simultaneously while being able to engage a dozen targets in one go.

Considered to be one of the best air defence systems in the world, the S-400 can cover a height of up to 30 km and the minimum height of detection is 5 km.

The only other country in the region to have the S-400 is China, which, however, has the S-300, the earlier version.

The S-400 has a firing rate that is 2.5 times faster than that of the earlier generation. Incidentally, the Russians have also developed the S-500, the latest version but they’ve kept it for themselves. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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