India Faces Hard Choice: US THAAD vs Russian S-400 Triumf

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Written by Andrei Akulov; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

The US is applying efforts to block India’s S-400 agreement with Russia. It offers to sell its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) instead. New Delhi is in talks with Russia on purchasing S-400 Triumf air defense systems in a $6 billion deal. The issue was included into the agenda of the 2+2 format talks. Indian foreign and defense ministers were to meet their American counterparts in Washington on July 6 but all of a sudden the US postponed the meeting amid the reports that the relations have taken a tumble.

India Faces Hard Choice: US THAAD vs Russian S-400 Triumf

The two countries don’t see eye-to-eye on a number of issues, including the tariff wars, the Iran deal etc. The news came a day after Washington announced that all other countries, including India, must cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions. It made clear there would be no waivers to anyone. This is for the second time that America postponed the 2+2 dialogue which was initially slated for March.

The US position looks very much like blackmail because if India refuses to dump the Russian system, it will come under sanctions according to the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) unless the administration is able to convince the Congress that this country deserves a waiver in case it reduces its defense cooperation with Russia. This is another example of America’s arms-twisting diplomacy.

Is it worth to reject the pressure and stand tall? If America offered a good deal, why not meet it halfway? But will India get what it seeks as a result? It calls for a look at the capabilities of the two systems.

The S-400 multi-layered general purpose air defense system covers the entire spectrum of possible air to space targets, including small and intermediate range ballistic missiles. The THAAD is a single layer defense destined to counter only against intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missile systems at either before or during the early phase of their reentry with the speed of up to 3000 m/s outside of atmosphere. A missile’s velocity is 2,880 m/s allowing to launch another interceptor at the upcoming target in case the first one missed. If there is no kill, the Patriot air defense system will have to step in.

The Triumf can engage targets with higher speed up to 4,800 m/s. It can effectively target incoming aircraft and other targets while transmitting target information to other air defense systems.

The THAAD relies entirely on friendly units for protection against enemy aircraft the Russian system is effective against. The THAAD’s kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding ballistic missiles’ warheads upon impact, but the Russian system’s fragmentary warhead increases kill probability. The S-400 provides 5 missile types and several different radars for providing intercept from short range / low altitude targets to long-range / high altitude targets. The THAAD has only one.

The THAAD’s has an estimated range of 150-200 km in comparison to Triumf’s 400 km. This is a very important advantage of the Russian weapon. The American system has a greater altitude: 150 km vs S-400’s 30 km. It also boasts a greater detection range: 100 km vs S-400’s 600 km. The THAAD is good against high altitude missiles. But theater defense requires the capability to take down targets at low altitude, not in space.

The S-400’s missiles are fitted with homing devices. Unlike American systems, the Triumf does not need to track the target.

The Triumf routinely scans the airspace in a 360 degree sweep. The THAAD horizontal sweep is 90 degrees, a vertical sweep: 60 degrees.

There is a great difference in prices. One THAAD battery consists of six launchers (eight interceptors per each of them) and costs about $2, 3 billion plus $574 modernized AN/TPY-2 radar. A battery of S-400, including eight launchers with 4 interceptors each, costs about $500 million or six times less.

The THAAD’s identification friend-or-foe system will not allow India to take down US-made and NATO member states – produced aircraft or missiles a potential enemy may have in the inventory. The Russian S-400 will allow countering weapons produced in Western countries.

As one can see, the S-400 has many advantages over the THAAD, including a broad greater range, a lower price, and a wider range of targets to knock down, but it’s not about comparing specifications or costs. Saudi Arabia wants to have both systems in the inventory, India could do it too. What really matters is that Russia attaches no strings to the deal. Unlike the US, it exerts no pressure and makes no threats. It treats India with respect and does not hurt its national pride by trying to impose its weapon systems instead of winning in a fair contest. Moscow does not threaten New Delhi with sanctions and other things if it buys the American THAAD. That’s the main difference between the two deals India has to consider.

China is already operating S-400s, Turkey has concluded a deal. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are engaged in negotiations over the purchase while many more nations are considering such a possibility. India will not make a mistake if it buys the Russian system. With the deal going through, it’ll get a bigger bang for its buck and protect its sovereignty demonstrating the determination to resist pressure. Great nations cannot be dictated the terms of decisions they are going to make. The Indian government knows better what weapon its military needs to defend the country.

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  • Barba_Papa

    It’s really simple, India, when you buy Russian or French, you get the technology and you can do the fuck whatever you want with it. You buy American you also end up with American meddling in your internal and foreign affairs. And if you do something that displeases America, NO MORE SPARE PARTS FOR YOU!

    Just for that alone it would be worth it to buy anything else, even an inferior product.

  • Jesus

    S400 is an excellent air denial weapon providing a layered defense with four different range missiles, THAAD is one dimensional and its presumed effectiveness is against ballistic missiles, not aircraft, drones or hypersonic missiles.
    For India’s air defense needs, S400 will be a goood acquisition for a reasonable sum of money.

    • Garga

      …THAAD is one dimensional and its presumed effectiveness is

      Thank you. That’s a very important aspect. It is “presumed” to work as advertised.

      • Wise Gandalf

        the persian ayatollah can also murm allahuakbar, bu knows nothing about al gaibr, geometry, maths.

    • Wise Gandalf

      one dimesional?

      i see, you felt iut from elemtary school after 6th year :DDDD

  • Real Anti-Racist Action

    As an American, I completely recommend to you the good country of India, to buy the S-400 system instead.
    We Americans even acknowledge the inferiority and problematic nature of THAAD.
    The other problem is that the US also installs Malware on all THAAD systems so if ever the US air force wants to attack, they first launch a cyber attack on the THAAD system to disable it before the US attacks you.
    Just as the US even infected all Japaneses power stations with such viruses so if ever the US wants to attack Japan as the US had attacked Japan back in the 1850’s.
    The US would first launch a cyber attack, then invade again.

    SOURCE:
    http://www.iiipublishing.com/politics/asian_war/asian_war_japan1.html

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      Burn the whole MIC and sue their asses for theft and corruption of taxpayers dollars even that has been admitted recently only some bad apples,lol.

      • Sinbad2

        The key difference between the Russian and US weapons makers, are the American ones are in it for the profit, and commonly bribe US politicians to make the right decision.

        For Russia it’s about surviving an American attack, money is no good to you if your dead. Also Russia has a lot more rocket scientists and engineers than the US, so there is more competition.

  • Smaug

    First, article uses unverifiable info. There us no way to prove or disprove the numbers.
    Second, the S-400 is not a perfect analogue of the THAAD, the THAAD is meant to be used in tandem with the Arrow (high altitude)and Patriot (low altitude).
    Finally I think geopolitics will be the determining factor. Both sides want to avoid the other’s weapons beung marketed anywhere and both sides will use their control of weapons to their own agendas while India will play one side against the othe to get the best deal.

    • Garga

      So, by choosing THAAD, one needs to buy not one, but TWO additional systems from two different countries in order to have an air defence? Sounds very tempting!

      • Smaug

        If only it were half thst simple, but on the other hand you’d curse your home country even if the roles were reversed.

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      The THAAD has a horrid success rate and is way to expensive and a single role weapon not in the interest of the public safety or within the spectrum of proper use of taxpayers money. India already knows which is the best deal but it will get the US to provide it for a fraction of it’s cost and then still buy the S-400,lol.

      • Wise Gandalf

        s400 was never used in war

      • Smaug

        Counterculture…

        • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

          American dick waving culture….

    • VeeNarian (Yerevan)

      Why would India buy US scrap. Indian ass-licking ended in 1947 and any leader showing such tendencies would be removed by his/her own party and by free and proud Indians in parliament.

  • alejoeisabel

    One important business function for US weapons manufacture is corruption and bribery. Those who lobby for THADD have secretly received or have been promised to receive millions in bribes. The issue is how corrupt is the Indian procurement system.

    • Wise Gandalf

      One important business function for US weapons manufacture is corruption and bribery.

      all countries, also russians do the same

  • George Silversurfer

    S400 would be a better choice.. thaad is a political choice under pressure.

  • Wise Gandalf

    The THAAD’s has an estimated range of 150-200 km in comparison to
    Triumf’s 400 km. This is a very important advantage of the Russian
    weapon.

    no boyous, the important thing is % of succesful defense.

    • Sinbad2

      If the S400 was not effective, the US would not be threatening countries who want to buy it.
      If THAAD is as accurate as the Patriot system, it would have a 10% chance of success, if it fired 2 missiles.

      • Wise Gandalf

        No, for USA goes ONLY about market.

  • Sinbad2

    In tests of the THAAD system, only 2 of the 8 tests have successfully hit the target.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_High_Altitude_Area_Defense
    Why the US has not repeated its single real world intercept since 1999, is a mystery to me.
    Cost is $800 million
    https://247wallst.com/aerospace-defense/2017/07/10/how-thaad-missile-defense-applies-in-south-korea-stats-costs-backing-controversy/

    S400, I can’t find any test data, but the cost is $400 million.

    THAAD although mobile, takes days to become operational, in fact it took weeks before the THAAD system in SK became operational.
    The S400 is a truly mobile system and can be operational minutes after being parked.

    Another advantage of the S400 is that it can interface with other systems, so for example it could use the radar of an aircraft to guide the missile to the target. The S400 also comes with various missiles to target different types of threats, whereas the THAAD system only intercepts ICBM’s.

  • SurfaceBook

    The wording of this article a bit misleading , India already stated their position strongly that they will preserve their defense cooperation with russia no matter what US said or demand.

    India is not monolithic , there’s realist among them who know the consequence of buying american weapons which is not india long term interest as the use of said weapons are tied to american tacit approval , there’s also a segment of indian that blindly think everything from america is the best , and in addition many indian middlemen salivation at the prospect of working weapons deal with US big MIC and pocketing massive profits.

    in the end , modi’s govt already state india position and it is the arrogant american that will lose india as ally if they continue to bully india.

    when US need friends to counterweight china , the arrogant SOBs in washington think they can bully potential allies and have them prostate in fear of US power..

    just who is running the amateurish diplomacy in US today ? a clown as president who break international rule that america itself help setup ? whole state dept that so incompetent they have no real diplomats for years ? or the war crazy pentagon that want more and more defense budget pie to support the insatiable MIC ?

    we are all watching the decline of US hegemony , and the clown in the white house just speed it up until US have no more allies