NEW DELHI — The Indian Air Force has asked the Ministry of Defence to buy unknown numbers of S-400 Triumf air defense (AD) systems from Russia, but Russian diplomats here said that Moscow is unlikely to readily agree to that Indian request until India clarifies its position on the joint Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program.

A final agreement on the joint development of the FGFA is still pending despite an initial agreement inked in 2010 because the Indian Air Force still has not finalized how many the number of aircraft it would order, FGFA it will order and because secondly the issue of work-share issues between India and Russia on production of the FGFA are not settled. Only after final agreement on FGFA is signed will India will release its share of $10 billion toward the development of the FGFA — which is based on the Russian T-50 platform and is in the prototype stage —only after final agreement is approved.on FGFA is signed will .

A Russian diplomat, however, said Moscow wants greater clarity on whether the ruling Narendra Modi government would proceed with go ahead on the joint development of the FGFA or limit its purchases of the aircraft. would just restrict to buying a few FGFA aircraft. The Russian diplomat, would however, would not say if there would be a trade-off between the S-400 and the FGFA deal.

The Indian Air Force IAF made a request to MoD early this month to buy the S-400 AD system, a Defence Ministry source said, in MoD said adding that the IAF request (to buy S-400) will be will be on Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's wish list when he visits Moscow next month. India proposes to buy the S-400 through AD system on a government-to-government (G2G) deal, the source added.

The Air Force wants the S-400 AD systems to fill holes in its fledgling air defense existing AD systems and provide give capability to strike multiple targets, including ballistic missiles and stealth aircraft, said an Air Force official. The S-400 Triumf can is capable of intercepting and destroying airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles), and can simultaneously engage up to six targets.

"The intention to go ahead with the purchase of S-400 Triumf indicates that the homegrown capability to build an effective anti-missile missile system is not in sight in the near future," said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.

India is developing its own anti-missile missile system that includes the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) for high-altitude interception (above 75 kilometers) and the Advanced system Air Defence (AAD) for low-altitude interception (below 15 kilometers).

The first phase of the system, which will be able to have with a range to kill ballistic missiles at a range of with a 2,000 kilometers, was scheduled to have been in operation by 2012. No official from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which is developing the PrithviPAD system, would comment whether the system is in operation.

The MoD source said that the second phase of the system, intended to provide the with a capability to kill incoming missiles at with a range of 5,000 kilometers, is now in development. The source would not comment on whether Phase 1 system is in operation.

In addition, to the homegrown PAD system, India and Israel are developing a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) project, which would have has a range of 70 kilometers, but the project has been delayed by more than three years, and no MoD official would comment about when it would be completed.

The Indo-Israeli MRSAM is being jointly developed by India's DRDO and Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries of Israel.

Another project being developed jointly with the Israelis is a long-range surface-to-air missile, which would have (LRSAM ) with a range of more than 100 kilometers and is meant for the Indian Navy. This effort is also over two years behind schedule.


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.