Russia is rapidly producing the S-400 amid sanctions and war

In 2024, the Indian Air Force anticipates the arrival of the last two S-400 long-range air defense systems, completing the five regiments’ order. The information was confirmed by Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, the head of the Air Force. 

Russia is rapidly producing the S-400 amid sanctions and war
Photo credit: RuAviation

On October 5, an update emerged from the marshal about a prevailing order. He confirmed, “We initially contracted for five systems, of which three have already been received. Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has created delivery obstacles. Despite these challenges, we remain confident that we will procure the remaining systems within the forthcoming year.”

It was noted that under the umbrella of the Kusha project, India is taking strides toward developing their own long-range air defense system. This initiative forms a portion of a larger strategy aimed at eliminating the country’s dependence on external suppliers to equip its armed forces.
Photo credit: MWM

In response to an order placed by the Indian Defense Ministry in October 2018, Russia hastened the delivery of S-400s. This order, drawn under a $5.43 billion contract, piqued Russia’s promptness following subsequent requests from Delhi.

Following a wave of substantial investments in the 2010s, the Russian defense industry has achieved noteworthy advancements in its production capabilities, specifically for the S-400 system. 

This financial push enabled the creation of air defense assets on a larger scale towards the end of the decade. As a result, the sector’s output has managed to fulfill a dual purpose. 

In the Baltics, S-400 air defense systems shoot down Su-27s
Photo credit: DefBrief

On one hand, it has facilitated the rapid expansion of the domestic arsenal. On the other hand, it has carried out substantial exports to nations such as Belarus and India concurrently.

In the face of potential American economic sanctions, India has steadfastly pursued the acquisition of premium Russian weaponry. Analysts have perceived this as an audacious move that dismisses the perceived threat of sanctions from Washington. Such attempts at economic coercion have been rejected by Delhi, categorizing them as both illicit and unauthorized, principally when coupled with their determination to proceed with their scheduled orders for Russian air defense equipment.

The construction of new manufacturing facilities alongside the modernization of existing ones in Russia has triggered a surge in production capabilities. This significant growth enables the production of S-400 units on a scale that is enough to equip multiple regiments annually.

The evolution and development of long-ranged systems like the S-300V4 and S-500 have been parallel to this ongoing progression. Among the key facilities that have upgraded their fabrication capabilities to support the expanded production of these advanced air defense assets are the newly-established wing of the Obukhov Plant in St. Petersburg, the thoroughly modernized Avitek Plant in Kirov, and the NMP Plant in Nizhniy Novgorod.

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

In January 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin astutely provided valuable insights into Russia’s massive surface-to-air missile production capabilities. During a visit to the Obukhovsky Plant, Putin highlighted that its output remarkably surpasses the total production of similar facilities around the globe.

Although the actual production volumes of China and North Korea remain undisclosed and a subject of much dispute, it is often acknowledged that the factory’s output likely surpasses the cumulative production of all NATO members. This provides a perspective on its overwhelming capacity and significance.

In an unprecedented move, India stationed its first received S-400 unit near the western boundary with Pakistan in December 2021. This marked a significant stride in fortifying its defenses. As strategy evolved, the subsequent year saw the setup of a second S-400 unit, aptly positioned close to the northern frontier with China.

Starting in January 2023, the transformation of the country’s once-limited surface-to-air capabilities began with the delivery of the third set of S-400s. A revolution in the defense sector indeed, this development has marked a significant turning point.

The S-400 air defense system, acclaimed for its sophisticated proficiency, can intercept stealth aircraft, a category that China notably deploys in rapidly increasing quantities. Its skills extend beyond this, demonstrating the capacity to simultaneously challenge ballistic and cruise missiles, bombers, and fighters. Furthermore, the S-400 excels in maintaining a heightened situational awareness, evidenced by its expansive 600km maximum detection range. 

Highlighted features of the system extend beyond basic expectations, showcasing exceptional survivability due to elevated mobility and sophisticated electronic warfare countermeasures. Demonstrably, it is capable of engaging hypersonic weapons as fast as Mach 8, exhibiting its remarkable interception capacities.

Russia armed S-300 and S-400 with different missiles for better defense flexibility
Photo credit: BBC

It further stands out through its diverse arsenal of missile classes, with each devised to tackle different types of targets over varying distances. This unique composition enables it to deliver a multi-tiered air defense from a singular system, enhancing its efficacy and strategic value. 

Before the onset of the Ukrainian conflict in 2022, India had a significant standing as possibly the biggest buyer of Russian weaponry. However, ensuing from the war, a suspension of the Russian military’s provision to India has been observed. The main challenge has been the difficulty in devising a payment structure that aligns with US sanctions, according to officials from India in the loop of these developments.

Suspension hovers over Indian arms payments surpassing $2 billion for nearly a year. Moreover, Russia, which serves as India’s primary provider of weaponry essential to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China, has halted the provision of credit for a pipeline of spare parts valued at approximately $10 billion.

Photo credit: TASS

India cannot pay in US dollars due to sanction worries, and Russia is hesitant about accepting rupees due to exchange rate issues. New Delhi is also unwilling to use Russian rubles due to concerns over fair market value, officials stated.

In an attempt to mitigate a potential rupee crisis, the government of India has suggested a unique approach to Moscow, according to inside sources. They propose that the revenue accumulated from arms sales be reinvested into Indian debt and capital markets. However, this offer does not appear to be favorably viewed by the administration led by Vladimir Putin.

It’s important to remember, as reminds us, that on the 4th of October, there was a sighting of two 51P6A launchers. These launchers are integral components of the S-400 system. Interestingly, this event was captured by a Russian civilian, who then shared the image on social media platforms.

Insights provided by regional specialists indicate that delivery of the final pair of S-400 air defense systems ordered by India is expected to be accomplished by the conclusion of 2024. Amidst an active battle between Russia and Ukraine and the enforcement of Western sanctions against the Russian Federation, the author underscores that Russia continues to uphold its duty by supplementing the Indian Air Force with pivotal equipment.

Indian S-400 launchers with 9M96E missiles spotted in Russia
Photo credit: Telegram

In Russia, two S-400s were observed, as noted by the author. This sighting signifies that these systems are en route to their ultimate production phase – the final outfitting. Following the completion of this stage, customary inspections and tests will be carried out. After successfully passing these evaluations, the systems will then commence their journey for delivery to India.


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