Good news and bad for Russia: S-400 deal is on, while FGFA is dead - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 13 July 2018

Good news and bad for Russia: S-400 deal is on, while FGFA is dead

Sources say Modi-Putin summit in October will see S-400 announcement

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th July 18

On Friday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had both good news and bad for Moscow.

On the one hand, she solidly affirmed India would go ahead and buy the Russian S-400 air defence missile system, despite Washington’s opposition. On the other hand, she officially confirmed the Indo-Russian proposal to co-develop the so-called fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) was dead.

“We are at the conclusive stage of negotiations for the S-400 now. When the deal will be ready for signing, I cannot say,” she said.

However, well-informed defence ministry sources say that a scheduled summit meeting in October between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will see some form of announcement of the agreement to sell India five units of the S-400 missile system.

A key reason is because, with India pressing for delivery of the first S-400 units by 2020, the order must be placed at the latest in October.

Questioned about the time lines for supply of the S-400, Sitharaman stated: “The contract will be executed by Russia in 2½ to 4 years from signing”

Emphasising the need to announce the S-400 contract during the Modi-Putin summit, sources in Moscow explained: “Otherwise, delivery by 2020 will not be possible for Russia. There is a huge order book for the S-400 and deliveries have to be made to customers like Turkey and China. Those are pre-committed orders. A bunch of West Asian countries are also expressing interest.”

The defence minister dismissed the notion that US sanctions on Russia – as legislated through last year’s “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) – forces India to choose between America and Russia.

CAATSA binds Washington to impose sanctions against countries that engage in “significant transactions” with Russian, Iranian and North Korean defence and intelligence entities. It is expected that the S-400 sale would fall in this category.

However, indicating a modus vivendi between New Delhi and Washington on CAATSA, Sitharaman stated: “CAATSA is an American legislation Both the US secretary of defence and secretary of state have displayed understanding [of Indian interests].”

There is particular concern in Washington, as visiting US Congressman and chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee William Thornberry said on a visit toNew Delhi in May, that an Indian purchase of the S-400 system would complicate US-India interoperability.

Brushing aside those concerns, Sitharaman stated: “The S-400 procurement is not something that has come up today. It has been negotiated for several years. If the US has some objections on technical issues, we are willing to explain why those objections might not be relevant.”

The S-400 Triumf (NATO designation: SA-21 Growler) is a versatile missile defence system that can detect an incoming ballistic missile 600 kilometres away and shoot it down when it is still 230 km away, and 185 km above the earth. Enemy fighter aircraft can be shot down while they are still 400 km away.

In 2015, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had cleared the purchase of five S-400 units for an indicative price of about Rs 30,000 crore ($4.5 billion). However, the ministry is silent on the price finally agreed. 

On the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Sitharaman has officially confirmed what Business Standard first reported (April 20, $8.63 billion advanced fighter aircraft project with Russia put on ice”): that the Indian Air Force was no longer interested in co-developing the fighter with Russia.

“In February, it was conveyed to the Russians that they could go ahead with developing the fighter without us. But the option remains and we could well go back at a later stage and ask to buy the fighter,” she said. 


  1. Since with 4.5 billion we will get a limited amount of S400.
    How will these be deployed?
    Ostensibly to protect against nuclear armed incoming missiles/aircraft
    Are these Just enough to protect Lutyens Delhi, and Bungalows?
    Adityanath might want to use UP State funds to order a few for Gorakhpur.

  2. There is nothing called good and bad decision here. These are decisions taken on national defence priorities. Our kitty is limited.


  3. Why do we think IAF has made wrong decision.

  4. Maybe we are playing hard ball with USSR after the arm twist we got wrt aircraft carrier deal.

    The RUSSIANS may provide the aircraft to CHIN PAK SOON

  5. Replying to anonymous with the link to the article in the Business Standard.
    The engine of the SU57 the  izdeliye 30 is not ready yet.
    Meanwhile there is nothing wrong with the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker and derivatives which the Russians are upgrading.
    The Indian withdrawal from the project threw all plans out of kilter nevertheless an export version for sale of the SU57 will be ready by 2025.
    With an expected life cycle of thirty years a few years delay, due to Russia’s other financial priorities, does not mean the project is halted, the research and development is ongoing and enhanced, potential customers are Turkey, Vietnam, S Korea, Iran and even China.
    India has made a mistake, as it is incapable of developing a credible fighter aircraft indigenously, technology/partnership was the only viable route.
    China will equip Pakistan with a future variant of the J20 much more cheaply than India can equip itself with the F35.
    Eventually by 2025 India may simply have to buy the SU57 off the shelf from the Russians at a higher price.
    That is if the Indian economy will be able to support this colossal continuous arms import. It is perhaps worth commenting here, India has 48 million stunted children under the age of five due to malnutrition. More of world's poor live in India than in all sub-Saharan Africa.
    Meanwhile the recent divisive venom spewed by our defence minister at a recent press conference, shows that she is now fully engaged in political matters and has retired herself of her responsibilities in defence matters.

  6. NSR says ---

    S400 is top most priority...
    India has the leverage in the present circumstances to get a good deal including substituting the missiles with latest ones Russia just tested...

    Super Sukhois are next priority...
    Build some of these with Brahmos launchers in Russia and in India...If Russia promises to transfer 100% TOT transfers in engine and avionics...
    This will benefit India immediately and also India can upgrade all older models to this level as their mid-level upgrade comes due...

    Keeping all the Russian armaments working must be everyday priority by buying, manufacturing, and/or cooperating with Ukraine to get some, and/or whatever including reverse engineering...
    Without these Running, the Emperor will be without any clothes much less arms to fight...


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