In a game-changing arms acquisition, India is going to ink a Rs 39,000 crore ($5.8 billion—Ed.) deal for five new-generation Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, which can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at ranges of up to 400-km.
India and Russia will also finalise the long-awaited agreement for the joint production of around 200 Kamov 226T light utility helicopters at a cost of about $1 billion under the “Make in India” programme.
With Russian President Vladmir Putin headed for India to attend the BRICS Summit in Goa, the S-400 deal as well as the joint venture for helicopters to be established between defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian Rostec State Corporation will be inked over the weekend.
TOI was the first to be report in October 2015 that India had decided to purchase the S-400 systems, which basically have three kinds of missiles, with different capabilities, that can fly at supersonic and hypersonic speeds to intercept all kinds of targets at ranges from 120 to 400-km. Russian experts even proclaim the S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system can “radar lock and shoot down” stealth fifth-generation fighters like the American F-35 jets.
This procurement comes over an year after China sealed a $3 billion deal with Russia for acquisition of six S-400 batteries. China is slated to get the S-400 batteries, which is designated `SA-21 Growler’ by NATO and rivals the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the US Patriot PAC-3 system, from 2017 onwards.
As for the Kamov helicopters, which will replace the aging and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the armed forces, the deal will be signed between defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian Rostec State Corporation. HAL and Rostec will form a joint venture to set up the production facilities to execute the deal.
As was reported by TOI last month, the decks had been cleared for the helicopter deal after a flurry of high-level meetings between the two countries. After a pronounced tilt towards the US in terms of defence deals and military-to-military ties over the last decade, India has reassured Russia that their traditional strategic partnership and defence projects will continue as before.
Negotiations for other mega defence projects with Russia like the joint development of the futuristic fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and the $1.5 billion lease of a second nuclear-powered submarine are also on track now.
Soon after it had come to office in 2014, the NDA government had scrapped the long-pending acquisition of 197 light-utility helicopters from abroad, the selection process for which has been dogged by corruption allegations and technical deviations.
The armed forces have waited a long time for new helicopters to replace their Cheetah/Chetak helicopters, which are even used even in high-altitude areas like Siachen. In all, the Army and IAF need 384 light-utility helicopters. HAL, which was tasked to manufacture 187 similar helicopters in 2009, too, is yet to deliver.