CEO Alexander Mikheev of Rosoboronexport definitively dismissed rumours suggesting a halt in the delivery of the S-400 air defence systems to India. He asserted that the contract implementation process is following the exact timelines agreed upon by both parties.

Mikheev was referring to earlier reports circulated in Western media, which speculated that Moscow was unable to fulfil its delivery promises to India due to the ongoing Ukraine conflict and international sanctions. Mikheev acknowledged the Ukrainian media’s accounts of supposed interruptions in the supply of the final two S-400 divisions and some spare components for Russian-made combat aircraft to India.

S-400 Delivery On Track

In response to inquiries from RIA Novosti about these reports, Mikheev confirmed, “The contract is being executed within the terms established by the agreement of the parties.” Interestingly, the Russian dignitary didn’t explicitly refer to any particular report. However, last year, an IAF representative informed an Indian parliamentary committee about Moscow’s potential failure to make a “major delivery” due to the Ukraine crisis.

This acknowledgment, broadly reported by India’s lower house of parliament, was seen as the first official confirmation from the Indian authorities about Russia’s inability to meet its export commitments, leading to widespread media speculation.

The S-400 Triumf air defense system units, purchased in 2018 for US$5.4 billion, are among the most notable ongoing deliveries from Moscow to New Delhi. A few months later, Russian authorities reassured that the S-400 anti-aircraft systems would be delivered to India as per the agreed schedule.

Dmitry Shugaev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, confirmed, “The production of S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile systems is being carried out according to schedule.”


Final Two

By October 2023, three S-400 Triumph air defence system formations had been delivered to India, with the final two systems expected to arrive by the end of the current year, according to Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. In response to a comprehensive threat assessment, the Indian military has strategically stationed three S-400 system units along the borders with China and Pakistan.

Indian officials and military veterans have recognized the strategic value of the S-400 air defense system due to its ability to neutralize multiple threats simultaneously, making it a vital component of India’s security in the face of persistent border threats. India joined China and Turkey as the third foreign buyer of these systems.

According to a report by SIPRI last year, Russia was shown to hold a significant portion (45%) of India’s defense import market, although this has decreased from a previous 62%. This reduction can be linked to India’s active drive to promote local manufacturing and diversify its sources. It is suggested by market observers that in the future, India might seek to diminish its military equipment imports to reduce its dependency on Russian hardware.

Before Ukraine

Before the Ukrainian crisis unfolded in 2022, India was viewed as a major buyer of Russian arms. However, the war has caused a pause in Russia’s military supply to India. A key hurdle, as noted by Indian officials, is the difficulty in establishing a payment mechanism that complies with US sanctions.

This impasse has led to a suspension of over $2 billion worth of Indian arms payments for nearly a year. Additionally, Russia—who outfits India against potential threats from neighbors like Pakistan and China—has stopped providing credit for a spare parts pipeline worth an estimated $10 billion.

Due to concerns about sanctions, India is unable to pay in US dollars, and Russia is reluctant to accept payments in rupees due to foreign exchange fluctuations. Indian officials also expressed reluctance to use Russian rubles, referencing concerns about market value.

In an attempt to sidestep a potential rupee issue, the Indian government has proposed an innovative solution to Moscow, insiders claim. They suggest that revenue from weapon sales be redirected into Indian debt and capital markets. However, this proposal does not seem to resonate with Putin’s administration.

Interestingly, on October 4th, two 51P6A launchers, vital components of the S-400 system, were observed. This unexpected development was documented by a Russian civilian, who promptly posted the visuals on their social media accounts.

Regional experts anticipate the delivery of the final two units of S-400 air defence systems ordered by India will be completed by the end of 2024. Despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia, it is important to note that Russia remains committed to strengthening the Indian Air Force with crucial equipment.

Failing to fulfil its commitment to an old and reliable patron is not a good sign for a nation currently trying to attract more buyers at the World Defence Show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Among its offerings, the S-400 has stood out in Russia’s bid to attract potential customers, especially from the conflict-ridden Middle East.