India to Receive Last Two Russian S-400 Units in 2024: How Is Russia Producing Them So Quickly?

The Indian Air Force is set to receive its final two of five ordered regiments’ worth of S-400 long range air defence systems in 2024, according to a statement by Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. The marshal reported on October 5 regarding the order: “Our contract was for five systems and three have been delivered. There is a hindrance in delivery due to the Russia-Ukraine war and we are sure that in the next one year, we will be getting the remaining systems.”  He added that India was developing an indigenous long range air defence system under the Kusha project, which came as part of broader efforts to end reliance on foreign suppliers for the country’s armed forces. After the Indian Defence Ministry placed an order for S-400s in October 2018 under a $5.43 billion contract, Russia accelerated deliveries of the assets in response to subsequent requests from Delhi. The Russian defence sector has been able to produce sufficient S-400 systems to both rapidly expand the domestic arsenal and to complete simultaneous exports to Belarus and India, largely as a result of significant investments in the 2010s  which allowed air defence assets to be produced on a far larger scale beginning near the end of the decade. Although India has repeatedly been threatened with American economic warfare measures should it proceed with acquisitions of high end Russian weapons systems, Delhi has harshly condemned such threats as illegitimate and illegal and was widely seen by analysts to have effectively called Washington’s bluff over possible sanctions when it went ahead with planned orders for Russian air defence assets.

Construction of new factories and modernisation of older ones in Russia has facilitated a massive scale of production allowing multiple regiments worth of S-400s to be produced annually. This has continued in parallel alongside production of other newer long ranged systems such as the S-300V4 and S-500. The most notable facilities which have seen their productive capacities improved to facilitate manufacturing of advanced air defence assets on an expanded scale include a new wing of the Obukhov Plant in St. Petersburg, the Avitek Plant in Kirov which was throughly modernised, and the NMP Plant in Nizhniy Novgorod. Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2023 alluded to the scale of Russia’s productive capacity for surface to air missile systems, highlighting on a visit to the Obukhovsky Plant that its output of surface to air missiles exceeded that of the factories of the rest of the world combined. While this claim is disputed, with Chinese and North Korean production quantities being significant but unknown, the factory’s output is thought to comfortably exceed those of all NATO members combined.

The first S-400 unit delivered to India was deployed near its western border with Pakistan in December 2021, with a second unit delivered the following year stationed near the northern border with China. The third began deliveries in January 2023, and S-400s have thus continued to revolutionise the country’s previously very limited surface to air capabilities. S-400s are prized for their advanced capabilities against stealth aircraft, which are fielded by China in fast growing numbers, as well as their ability to counter ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, bomber and fighters simultaneously, and their very high situational awareness with a 600km maximum detection range. Other notable features include high survivability as a result of very high mobility and advanced electronic warfare countermeasures, a demonstrated ability to intercept hypersonic weapons at Mach 8 speeds, and the use of multiple complementary missile classes optimised for engaging different types of targets at different ranges – allowing a single system to provide a multi layered air defence.