India will likely complete the deployment of the first regiment of the Russian-made S-400 air defense missile system next month, Indian military officials say, a move aimed at boosting the country’s air defense capabilities in defiance of the risk of possible US sanctions.
On Saturday, The Hindu, one of India’s leading newspapers, quoted unnamed Indian military officials as saying that the Indian Air Force was likely to complete the deployment of the first regiment of the S-400 Triumf missile system at an airbase in Punjab by February. The officials added that the process of deployment of the advanced missile system had begun and it would take at least six more weeks to complete the deployment.
“The transportation of various critical components of the missile systems as well as its peripheral equipment to the site of the deployment is going on,” one of the officials said.
The S-400 entered service with the Russian army in 2007 and is considered Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system. Capable of engaging targets at a distance of 400 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers, the missile system can destroy aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against land-based targets.
In October 2018, India signed a $5.4-billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the long-range missile system. The supplies will put India at risk of punitive measures from the US under the provisions of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a 2017 law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump had warned New Delhi that going ahead with the contract could invite US sanctions. However, the administration of incumbent President Joe Biden has not yet clarified whether it will impose sanctions on India under CAATSA for procuring the S-400.
In 2020, the US imposed sanctions on NATO ally Turkey for acquiring S-400 missiles from Russia.
Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the S-400 deal between New Delhi and Moscow has a very important meaning for the Indian defense capability. “The S-400 deal doesn’t have only symbolic meaning, it has a very important practical meaning for the Indian defense capability and the situation is basically underway. The deal is being implemented,” he said at the time.