India will receive shipments for the third operational squadron of the Russian S-400 air defence system

NEW DELHI: India is expecting shipments for the third operational squadron of air defence system S-400 to start arriving from Russia next month.

The S-400, one of the most advanced air defence missile systems, which can bring down enemy fighter jets, UAVs and incoming missiles at a distance of up to 400 km, is crucial for India now due to the ongoing military standoff with China. The S-400 is also important due to the Indian Air Force’s dwindling number of fighter squadrons, that is down to 31 from the sanctioned strength of 42.

“The components for the S-400 will start arriving in November from Russia,” said sources in the defence establishment. India has till now received two squadrons of the S-400 from Russia. The second squadron was sent by Russia after the conflict began with Ukraine in February.

Officials said one S-400 squadron has been deployed in the north in Punjab and the second in the east around the Chicken’s Neck corridor, a vulnerable stretch which connects the north-eastern states with the rest of India. “The S-400 will be deployed in areas which we think are vulnerable and which we need to protect. The S-400 will be used to fortify those positions,” the sources said. The third squadron of S-400 is likely to be deployed in the north and one of the sites may be in Rajasthan, an official said.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has recently been carrying out aggressive exercises in the Tibet region, violating Indian airspace, and the confidence-building measures which mandate that both sides should not fly fighter warplanes within 10 km of the Line of Actual Control. In response India has also increased its air operations in the sector, including carrying out night sorties. China has also upgraded its airbases along the LAC and hiked the number of hardened shelters.

India had signed a contract in 2018 to purchase five S-400 squadrons worth Rs 35,000 crores.

The S-400 is an upgrade of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system and can detect target from up to 600 km. It is armed with four different types of missiles with ranges of 400 km, 250 km, 120 km and 40 kms.

The United States has been asking India to move away from Russian equipment and avoid any kind of acquisition which can trigger sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) 2017.