St Petersburg: India is set to get its S-400 air defence systems by December, with Russian developers promising that it would give “100% air cover” even in high altitude areas like Ladakh, where border tensions have simmered in the past year.

The first Indian systems are nearing completion and an air force team is already undergoing training in Russia. Officials said the Covid-19 pandemic did not have any impact on the delivery schedule as not a single day of work was suspended, given the urgent requirements of the system.

“The delivery of the S-400 for India is on schedule and first deliveries are expected by the end of this year. IAF personnel are now training on the system in Russia,” Dmitriy Sugaev, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), told ET, adding that at present there are no requests from the Indian side on ordering a larger number of the systems.

On asked about the performance of the S-400 ‘Triumph’ in high altitude areas like Ladakh, its developers said extensive testing has been undertaken which shows that the system can be operated at altitudes of over 3,000 metres above sea level.

“The S-400 is the most state-of-the-art air defence system in the world. Taking into account that Russia too has high altitude areas, the equipment has been operated in such environment. At altitudes of over 3000 m, it will be able to provide 100% protection against missiles and other air borne targets,” Mikhail Podvyaznikov, deputy general director of Almaz Antey, the manufacturer of the system, said.

Given the ability of the system to take down targets from a distance of over 400 km, S-400 would technically be able to cover most major Chinese airbases in Tibet that are directed towards Eastern Ladakh and have seen increased fighter jet activity over the past year.

On the ability of the system to deal with newer threats like loitering munition and short-range drones, its manufacturers said that it is capable of taking down these targets but the user has to decide whether using expensive missiles is feasible.

“There is a 100% guarantee that it is capable of engaging any airborne targets, including loitering munition. On the other hand, using these missiles against cheap airborne targets will be very expensive. Therefore, a multilevel, diverse defence system that can engage such targets has proved efficient,” Podvyaznikov said, adding that the S 400 has an open architecture that enables adding of more components to meet future threats as well.

While Russian officials said there are no current requests for such systems, India does have an indigenous air defence system to take care of short-range threats, with large numbers of Akash on order.

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