Russia eyes $8 billion in defence deals: S-400, Krivak frigates and Kamov helicopters - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 4 October 2018

Russia eyes $8 billion in defence deals: S-400, Krivak frigates and Kamov helicopters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Oct 18

With American having displaced Russia over the preceding decade as India’s largest supplier of weaponry, the balance could be restored significantly in the summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Friday.

Possible announcements relate to the supply of five S-400 Triumf air defence units for the Indian Air Force (IAF) for some $4.5 billion; four Krivak III-class frigates for the navy for about $2 billion, and a $1.5 billion contract to build 200 Kamov-226T light helicopters in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) with technology transferred from Russian Helicopters. 

If all this is finalised, Russia would benefit from about $8 billion worth of defence orders. This would be half of what America has won in a decade. 

Standing in the way of Indian purchases from Russia is an American law passed last year – “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA).

Passed by the US Congress to force President Donald Trump’s hand against Russia, CAATSA binds the US administration to impose sanctions against countries that engage in “significant transactions” with Russian, Iranian and North Korean defence and intelligence entities. 

All three contracts in the pipeline with Russia – the S-400 system, frigates and, to a lesser extent, helicopters – could potentially be considered “significant transactions”.

However, after hectic Indian lobbying, Washington has created a path for its president to grant a waiver from CAATSA for close partners like India and Vietnam, which have traditionally been dependent on Russian weaponry, and cannot be reasonably expected to break that dependency suddenly.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will invoke a waiver for India. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman indicated in August that there was a modus vivendi between New Delhi and Washington, stating: “Both the US secretary of defence and secretary of state have displayed understanding [of Indian interests].”

The S-400 Triumf (NATO designation: SA-21 Growler) is a versatile air defence system that can detect incoming enemy aircraft while they are 600 kilometres away and shoot them down as they approach within 400 kilometres. 

An S-400 unit located near Delhi for protecting the capital would be able to shoot down Pakistani aircraft even before they cross the border to India, and Chinese aircraft while they were still in Tibetan or Nepalese air space.

Similarly, an S-400 unit deployed to protect India’s petroleum refineries and dock infrastructure around Jamnagar, in Gujarat, would be able to engage Pakistani fighters as soon as they took off from Karachi.

Russia also markets the S-400 as a defence against incoming ballistic missiles, presumably nuclear-tipped. But experts assess the S-400 is effective only against short and medium range ballistic missiles, and ineffective against intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles, which travel at far greater speeds.

Sitharaman says Russia will deliver the S-400 within four years of signing the contract. But Moscow sources say, given keen interest from countries like Turkey and China, such a delivery schedule requires India to sign a contract right away.

Krivak III frigates

The Indian Navy, which is short of warships and building capacity, is negotiating to buy four Krivak III-class frigates from Russia, to supplement six similar warships bought earlier.

Two of these 4,000-tonne warships are lying almost fully built in Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia. For those, New Delhi and Moscow have negotiated a price of under $1 billion. They could be delivered to India, as soon as they are fitted with Ukrainian Zorya gas turbine engines – which Ukraine refuses to supply Russia but has agreed to route via India.

However, agreement has remained stalled on the cost of building the remaining two frigates in Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), which India has mandated. Building in India, would add on costs such as technology transfer, transferring raw materials and systems from Russia to Goa, establishing building infrastructure in GSL and indigenising parts of the warship.

Kamov-226T choppers

In 2015, on Putin’s personal request, Modi agreed to buy 200 Kamov-226T utility helicopters for the IAF and army, without competitive bidding. 

HAL and Russian Helicopters have established a joint venture to build the Kamov in Tumkur. After supplying 60 choppers fully built from Russia, the Tumkur factory will build the other 140.

With manufacturing infrastructure established, Russian Helicopters would be in pole position for winning another billion dollar contract for 111 naval utility helicopters, which is already under procurement.


  1. Broadsword has been keeping us all informed since the beginning of the year regarding the potential purchase of the S-400, I can recall three previous excellent articles on the subject by him. As long back as June he informed his readers it was a done deal. This shows how important it is for INDIA to get the system and I have always advocated the system.
    I reiterate India needs a strategic joint defence strategy which plans years ahead. Our present one is amateurish, unscientific, not grounded in input either from research or intelligence.
    China already has been taking deliveries of the S-400 and is working on a comparable system expected within ten years.
    Under one of Broadswords previous articles I wrote.....
    From April 2018 there has been four batteries (one regimental unit) of S400 in China.
    The current complete Chinese order (yet to be delivered) consists of six regimental units.
    The S400 may be a match for any US aircraft including the F35 - and the Americans are worried - it can also intercept cruise and nuclear ballistic missiles.
    The S400 is being used to guard Moscow against nuclear attack as well as being deployed elsewhere; to protect the Baltic Fleet at Kaliningrad for example.
    I am glad India did not fall for the US con of manufacturing the F16 in India. This is an obsolete aircraft, when confronted by the S400.
    The Chinese are working on their own indigenous version of the S400 and intend this to be mass produced, as part of a Chinese Iron Dome against nuclear attack, if these are given to Pakistan then Indias nuclear deterrence may be neutralised.
    While all this is going on, the our bureaucrats, posted in short stints to the driving seats at the MOD lack knowledge of emerging technologies. These temporary creatures are dysfunctional, arrogant and dismissive of change.
    A coordinated defence strategy consisting of our Armed Forces, and made up of permanent specialists thinking long term is needed, this present piecemeal decision making - by merely reacting to changing realities will be fatal.

  2. There goes F35 for India..
    CNN reports - "US defense officials believe once operational, the S-400 could be used to gather technical data on US designed fighter planes and that critical information could be passed to Moscow either intentionally or unintentionally through a back door in the Russian designed system.
    India's purchase of the S-400 may result in the US refusing to sell "advanced fighter aircraft types" to Delhi in the future, said Layton.
    "It is important to note that other parts of the US-India relationship would not be impacted, simply the sale of advanced military aircraft," added Layton."

  3. We can dump the Americans if this is what the trump administration wants.

    The americans are singularly responsible for IRAN-IRAQ, AFGAN CRISIS, SADDAM-ISIS, SYRIA,VIETNAM MESS AMONGST OTHERS.



  4. 400km range is only for high-flying slow moving aircraft. Engagement in the lower altitudes would be in the range less than 40km.


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