India is working on a $2.5 billion project to develop an indigenous air defense system that could neutralize enemy aircrafts and missiles at a distance of 400km (248 miles), ANI news agency has reported, citing Ministry of Defense sources. At the moment, both India and its neighbour China have S-400 advanced air defense systems supplied by Russia.
The three-layered long-range-surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) defense system, which is being developed by India, will have the ability to strike down enemy aircraft and missiles at a 400-km range, the report said, noting that the defense ministry is likely to soon give its clearance for the project.
If implemented successfully, India could join an elite group of countries such as the US, Russia, the UK, France, Israel and China who have indigenous military capabilities to destroy enemy assets in the air from a long-distance range.
India is looking to deploy the LRSAM defense system against its hostile nuclear-power-armed neighbours, Pakistan and China, to further fortify its borders. The indigenous missile system’s proposed three layers of surface-to-air missiles will allow it to hit enemy targets at various ranges with both speed and accuracy.
The development comes just a year-and-a-half after Russia delivered the first squadron of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile defense systems to India, despite mounting pressure from the US. So far, India has received three squadrons of S-400 air defense systems under a $5.43-billion deal with Russia that was signed in 2018.
Russia delivered the first two systems to India in December 2021 and April 2022, respectively, and the third was supplied in early March this year. The remaining squadrons are expected to reach India by the end of this year or early 2024. Earlier this year, reports suggested that the deliveries were constrained by payment issues related to the US-led Western sanctions against Russia.
Alexander Mikheyev, the CEO of Russia’s state arms seller Rosoboronexport, earlier told TASS that the company was successfully implementing the contract on the delivery of S-400 air-defense systems to India.
The first S-400 system was deployed to India’s northwestern state of Punjab to mitigate air threats from China and Pakistan. The second system was deployed to the northeastern region of the country — known as the chicken’s neck — in West Bengal. The third squadron has been deployed to the western Rajasthan region along Pakistan’s Sindh province.
China, too, has acquired the S-400 air defense system from Russia and was in fact the first foreign buyer of this weapon back in 2014. Meanwhile, China has also developed indigenous versions of the surface-to-air missile – called the HQ-9 family – which was built along the lines of the Soviet-era S-300. However, its has maximum engagement range of around 200 km. China has sold these systems to Pakistan.
India’s air prowess previously received a boost from an indigenous medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) program developed by the state-run Defense Research and Development Organization in collaboration with Israel. The system was successfully tested last year. Though the MRSAM is modeled on the Israeli Barak-8 missile, it has certain technological tweaks in line with New Delhi’s push for indigenization of its defense technology. The MRSAM has an estimated range of 70km (43 miles), and a maximum speed of Mach 2, which is twice the speed of sound.