NEW DELHI — India has cleared the purchase of five units of Russian-made S-400 Triumf (AD) advanced Air Defence Systems [with Indian specifications] at a cost of about $4.5 billion. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest body under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which decides weapons purchases, cleared the purchase of S-400 AD systems at its meeting here December 17.

An advanced team is leaving for Moscow on Dec. 17 to negotiate the purchase of the S-400 systems, said a MoD official.

Sources in MoD, however, said it is not certain if the deal for the S-400 will be inked during the upcoming Dec. 24-25 visit by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow.

While India is keen on acquiring the S-400 systems, the response from Moscow is "lukewarm," the MoD source added.

IAF wants the S-400 Air Defence (AD) systems to fill holes in the fledgling Air Defence system and give capability to strike multiple targets, including ballistic missiles and stealth aircraft, said an IAF official.

The S-400 Triumf 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.

No Russian diplomat would comment on whether the deal would be inked, but diplomats had told Defense News in October that Moscow would like to give first priority to the pending deal on the Joint Development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA ).

India and Russia signed an Initial Agreement on joint development of a FGFA in 2010, but a final agreement is held back which will result in the release $10 billion to Russia for joint development of FGFA based on the T-50 platform and is already in prototype stage.

India is developing its own anti-missile missile system which includes the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) for high-altitude interception above 75 kilometers and Advanced Air Defence (AAD) for low-altitude interception below 15 kilometers. But analysts say the decision to want the S-400 AD systems indicates that the homemade AD systems are not likely to be introduced in the next two to three years.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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