India ‘loses’ S-400, but gains from Russian ‘special operation’

NEW DELHI, INDIA — The war in Ukraine and its unknown end is changing not only the political poles but also the previous role of some military manufacturers. An entire industry could be changed with each passing day as Russia’s “special military operation” [the term Moscow uses for its invasion of Ukraine. It’s a war, not “special military operation”] as Moscow claims] continues. This Industry is in India.

India strengthens its air defense with delivery of new S-400
Video screenshot

Only a few days ago it became clear that New Delhi will not receive the fourth S-400 regiment in 2023. This came to light after the Indian Air Force cut its budget for 2023. According to the Indian Air Force chief, the “big delivery this year” will not happen because of “war”, a statement said. Yes, it is about the S-400. The penultimate of a total of five S-400 regiments ordered for $5.5 billion will be delayed. When it will arrive in India remains unknown.

This news is not good for India. Why? Well, at the moment, the Indian air defense is mainly built by the three S-400 systems. The planned delivery of the fourth S-400 regiment seriously confuses the defense strategy of the Asian country. This is not a rumor as Moscow has sent an official letter to New Delhi saying that they cannot make the delivery, which is why capital expenditure in India’s budget has been reduced. This is also said in the statement of the chief of the Indian Air Force, quoted by EurAsian Times.

The reason is clear – the war in Ukraine. Signals that Russia will have to look for other suppliers to shoulder the burden of the war have not been lacking since the middle of last year. Let’s start with claims in some Western media that China has supplied spare parts for the S-400 and Su-35 systems to the Russian Federation. Such aid is allegedly valued at $1.2 million.

Supermaneuverable Su-30s and superiority F-15J fighters in joint exercises
Photo credit: Twitter

If one thinks about it, Russia may not fulfill many of the orders placed by India. Some may even rant about the war in Ukraine. was one of the first media outlets to report the appearance of the Indian T-90 Bhishma tank in Ukraine. Russia does not have this modification, but at the time of the outbreak of the conflict, Indian tanks were in the UralVagonZavod for deep modernization.

It is not only the S-400 system. India expects cooperation and supply of parts for Mi-17 helicopters, MiG-29 and Su-30 SMI fighters, An-32, l-76, and Il-78 aircraft, as well as several other platforms. All this may be delayed because no one knows when the war will end, and India needs spare parts, but there are restrictions on their production in the country, imposed by agreements years ago with the Russian state.

However, if we look at the real picture, not only New Delhi but also Moscow is facing supply difficulties. Su-30, Su-35, as well as some old MiGs, fly over Ukraine and suffer damage. This requires maintenance. Of course, at the moment it is completely logical from the Kremlin’s point of view that everything is focused on local production.

So how can the two countries solve their problems in the field of spare parts? We know that the Russian military industry uses quite similar designs and components in the development of various weapons systems. For example, many subsystems of the BrahMos cruise missiles are common to the P-800 Oniks missile, which Russia has deployed on its ships and shore batteries and has used extensively over the past year.

BrahMos sea-to-sea missile did a precise strike at 500 km
Photo credit: Wikipedia

And India, seeing the problems in Moscow, temporarily took steps to increase the Indian production of local analogous elements for the Russian military systems. For example, two months ago, in February, New Delhi decided to indigenization nearly 600 elements used primarily in Russian aviation systems.

The solution will obviously be – Transfer of Technology [ToT]. In this situation, India will be the big winner and Russia will get a lot of support. That is, the delay of the S-400 this year may open a door long awaited by India – technology transfer from Moscow at an unprecedented level. In this way, India will gain access to manufacturing sub-systems and components locally.

Already in 2018, there was talk of a similar transfer, but the political picture was different. India hinted at the time, though some press reports, that it might need not five, but ten S-400s. If India decides to make a second such order, Russia will not be able to fulfill it, so it will be forced to seek a solution. The Russian Federation needs money because of the war, and the only logical solution is to export a large part of its production to India, a country whose military industry is entirely built according to the standards of Soviet military design.

Moscow responded to New Delhi’s claims, and a year later, in 2019, Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov hinted that the S-400 could receive local [i.e. Indian] production. “Yes, we are discussing localization [of S-400 production] with India as well,” Chemezov told broadcaster RBK.

F/A-18E SH, Rafale and MiG-29 begin their battle for the Indian Navy
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Thus, a failed delivery could push the two countries into cooperation that would not go down well with Washington. In recent years, it is Washington that has been trying to break India from Russia’s dependence. This can be seen in some military deals that have been made between the two countries, as well as in the US attempt to disrupt Russian hegemony in Air Force inventory. However, now, these attempts, the sanctions that the US imposed on Russia and affected the production capacity of the Russian military industry may have the opposite effect. What an irony, right?


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