The Indian Air Force is working on the deployment of its brand new S-400 air defense system, acquired from Russia.
Hindustan time recently announced that India’s first S-400 unit would be operational in April and would be deployed to “deep areas to counter the Chinese threat”.
The Indian Air Force has previously described the S-400 as a “game changer” given the air defense system’s advanced sensors and missile range. The S-400 uses four types of surface-to-air missiles, with ranges from 40 km to 400 km. Missiles can shoot down several types of targets such as aircraft, cruise missiles, bombs, and certain types of ballistic missiles.
The versatility of the S-400 made Pakistan view its acquisition by India as a threat, as the system can shoot down aircraft even in Pakistani airspace.
A Chinese military expert Recount Defense News last week that Beijing could allow Pakistan access to hypersonic weapons to counter the S-400. Hypersonic weapons, which fly at more than five times the speed of sound, are difficult for most radars and existing surface-to-air missiles to track. Richard D. Fisher is a senior researcher at the International Center for Assessment and Strategy. He has testified before the US Congress about China’s military advances and has written extensively about Beijing’s armed forces.
He said Defense News“It is very likely that to the extent that China has helped North Korea’s new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missile warhead, it has helped or will similarly help a Pakistani heavyweight, or will simply sell the DF-17… Or Beijing now has the option of authorizing North Korea to sell its heavyweight to Pakistan.
A hypersonic glide vehicle is a type of hypersonic weapon that is mounted on a ballistic missile and released into the upper atmosphere, after which it glides towards its target. According to US intelligence estimates, the DF-17 has a range of about 2,500 km and travels at between five and ten times the speed of sound. It is believed that the Chinese military fielded the DF-17.
Pakistani analysts have previously argued for the development of hypersonic weapons to counter the deployment of the S-400.
Fisher also noted that China could help Pakistan by providing its improved surface-to-air missiles, which could deter the Indian Air Force from carrying out offensive operations. China has purchased both the S-400 and its predecessor, the S-300 missile system, from Russia. China has developed indigenous versions of the S-300 called the HQ-9 family of surface-to-air missiles, which have already been sold to Pakistan.
Fisher said Defense News“Like later S-300 family variants acquired by China, the HQ-9 featured a hard-to-jamme phased array guidance and tracking radar, and its missile uses active radar for terminal guidance.”
Mansoor Ahmed, senior fellow at the Pakistan-based think tank the Center for International Strategic Studies, said Defense News that Pakistan could also request assistance from two allies who use the S-400. Ahmed raised the possibility of military exercises with Turkey and China which “could at least indirectly help to identify his [S-400’s] strengths and weaknesses to explore the possibilities of suppressing and defeating Indian S-400 systems”. Turkey or China allowing Pakistan access to their S-400 systems would allow Islamabad to develop electronic countermeasures to jam radars or develop specific flight plans for its fighter jets that reduce detection possibilities.