China's HQ-16 Surface to Air Missile

On 06 May 2020, the RAND Corporation published an article outlining several challenges many countries face in their efforts to deploy long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. The main point of the piece is that the upfront cost of long-range SAMs, such as the S-400, are not indicative of the true cost required to exact enough value out of those systems. Rather, to effectively use long-range SAMs, the end-user must invest in different radar types to cover blind spots, build a secure, high-speed information exchange (i.e., data link) system to share target tracking data, and fine-tune training and processes to eliminate errors.

In other words, the end-user must acquire and acclimate to an Eco-system of high-cost assets before even contemplating the induction of a long-range SAM. Otherwise, the end-user will either fail to use the long-range SAM effectively, or worse, risk losing it to enemy fire. In terms of the latter, for example, the enemy can saturate an air defence battery with a large number of cruise missiles. In fact, this is one of the ways Pakistan can potentially work to counteract India’s S-400, and wider air defence network in general.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, one can also argue that Pakistan also built the Eco-system it would need to one day employ its own long-range SAM. Indeed, there have also been reports of Pakistan expressing interest in such a system. In 2018, a Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) official told Russian News Agency TASS that the armed forces were studying the feasibility of procuring three or four FD-2000 batteries from China. But Pakistan’s interest in the FD-2000 dates back to the early 2000s, and though it has not followed through on it yet, in the years since it built an Eco-system to fully leverage it.