Defence Secretary tells House panel that concerted efforts made by IAF to ramp up its capability

While China too possesses the S-400 Triumf long range air defence system, currently being inducted by India, and remains a potent weapon for them, countering them will be for the Indian Air Force based on “direct tactical planning”, an IAF representative informed the parliamentary standing committee on defence. While China was not directly mentioned in the reply, China with which India shares a long contentious border has already inducted the S-400.

“As regards S-400, you are right that they have it. But finally, it remains a potent weapon for them and it will be our tactics how to take them out. Perhaps we have better precision weapons. So, do they. That will be a direct tactical planning,” an Air Force representative briefed the panel, as per a standing committee report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

In the midst of the stand-off in eastern Ladakh following Chinese ingress at several locations across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April 2020, there were reports that the People’s Liberation Army had deployed its S-400 systems close to the LAC.

$5.43 Billion Deal

Last December, India began taking deliveries of the S-400 systems, five regiments of which were contracted from Russia under a $5.43 bn deal signed in October 2018. The first unit is delivered and in place, two defence sources confirmed, stating that the second unit is scheduled to arrive very soon.

With the threat of U.S. sanctions under the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the two sides had, back then, worked out payments through rupee-rouble exchange.

More recently, a range of sanctions imposed on Russia for its offensive in Ukraine has caused concerns on any possible impact on deliveries of spares and platforms contracted and the three Services and the Defence Ministry are making assessments on the extent of impact, if any. The Defence Ministry is also closely watching any impact the sanctions may have on the shipping and cargo movement which could delay deliveries of large systems, one official said.

Russia’s Assurance

Russia is committed to honouring all deliveries as per contract, diplomatic sources said, stating their industry is capable of handling the requirements.

Speaking before the committee, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said that in the last three to four years, concerted efforts had been made by the IAF to ramp up its capability and to make up for shortfall in fighter squadrons.

Stating that this “pace of acquisition” was not there earlier, Mr. Kumar noted that they have acquired 36 Rafale fighter planes, issued order for 83 TEJAS and ordered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). “So, the composite effort to ramp up the air defence and the air capability in the last four to five years has been significant,” he told the committee, as per the report.

Pointing out that last year there was an increase of 18% in modernisation budget and this year again, an increase of 13%, Mr. Kumar said there was “unprecedented ramping up of modernisation of the armed forces.” “So, there is adequate budget available. As and when the new requirements come up, we can meet them,” he stated.