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Russian S-400 air defence systems begin arriving in India, US threat of CAATSA sanctions looms

The $5.2-billion contract for five S-400 systems was signed in 2018, and deliveries were to begin by end of 2020. But they were delayed because of payment issues.

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New Delhi: The delivery of the Russian S-400 Triumf air defence systems to India has started, under a $5.2-billion deal inked by the Narendra Modi government. Some parts of the system have already reached the country, ThePrint has learnt.

However, the deliveries bring with them the threat of the US imposing sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed in 2017 to take action against countries involved in trade with Moscow.

Dmitry Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), told the country’s official news agency Sputnik: “The supplies of the S-400 air defence system to India have started and are proceeding on schedule.”

The development comes ahead of the proposed visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to India in December.

Sources in the defence establishment said the phased delivery of the first S-400 system, out of the five ordered by India, has begun, and the hardware has already reached India. They added that the full system should be in the country by the year-end.

The contract for the state-of-the-art system was signed in 2018, much to the discomfort of the US, and the deliveries were to begin last year. But the timeline got extended because payments got delayed, as reported by ThePrint earlier.

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

The command post, the radars, and the launchers are mounted on multi-axle, multi-wheel Ural carriers that have the capability to move on uneven terrains.

The S-400, which China also possesses, has a tracking capability of nearly 600 km and is capable of destroying incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones within a range of up to 400 km.

Even as the systems meant for India were undergoing trials, over 100 personnel of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were being trained on the S-400.


Also read: US imposing sanctions on India for S-400 deal with Russia will hurt ties, ex-envoy Juster says


Why CAATSA could be an issue

In March this year, visiting US Secretary of Defense 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”.

Austin had then clarified that the question of CAATSA or sanctions against India was not on the table, as India had not taken delivery of the system, with officials saying the issues comes into focus only when deliveries take place.

The Modi government, meanwhile, has firmly explained to the US on multiple occasions that the country’s armed forces have a diversified portfolio, and the deal with Russia for S-400 systems was in progress before the CAATSA came into being.

Moreover, India’s stance is that CAATSA is a US law, and not one by the United Nations.

But in January 2021, the US had imposed sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of S-400. This development took place only after Turkey took the delivery of the first system.

Mike Pompeo, then-US Secretary of State, had said the sanctions on Turkey demonstrate that the US will fully implement CAATSA and will not tolerate significant transactions with Russia’s defence sector.

“Despite our warnings, Turkey moved ahead with its purchase and testing of the S-400 system from Russia,” Pompeo had said.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)


Also read: Busting some fantastic claims about S-400 – India’s latest military acquisition


 

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