Russian S-400 vs US Patriot:- Which is best multi-role air defence system for india
The PAC-3( Later PAC-3 MSE) variant of the Patriot interceptor is a significant upgrade over the PAC-2, and has significant anti-ballistic missile capabilities. The advertised interception range against ballistic missiles is around 30kms. This will be significantly higher for aircraft engagement (probably over 150 kms). The older Patriot variants have significant battle experience. The new PAC-3 interceptors builds on those experiences and now can provide reliable defence for friendly forces under its protection.
The S-400 (an evolution of S-300 family) also fields significant anti-ballistic missile capabilities. It most probably uses the 48N6(E) or the humongous 40N6 interceptors for its anti-ballistic missile roles. The advertised max engagement altitude is approx 150 – 160 kms.
The S400 is a single jack of all trades system that is designed to provide formidable air and missile defense over a wide area at an affordable cost. The Patriot is a niche system that is designed to provide medium range air and missile defense over a much smaller geographic area. However, it’s complemented by a host of other systems that together provide much more capable air defenses than the S400, but at much greater cost.
The S-400 is also highly flexible when it comes to engagement ranges. The system uses multiple types of interceptors based on the targets range. The S-400 command node can use one of the following interceptors to bring down its target: The insane 40N6 (~ 400 kms) , the very long range 48N6 (~250 kms), the long range 9M96E2 ( ~120 kms) and medium range 9M96E (~ 40kms). The big interceptors (which are understandably harder on the pockets) need not be used on targets flying closer and can be reserved to harass slow moving, high value targets (like AWACS, Fuel tankers, transports etc). The Russians find this approach of arming a single system with multiple interceptors most suitable for their needs.
The patriot has a single type of interceptor (~150 kms range against aircrafts) for all types of targets, this approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. But suits the US / NATO and the other users just fine. But when it comes to detection and engagement ranges, the S-400 will probably detect, track and fire at a bogey long before the Patriot can even see it clearly.
Both the systems have excellent Radar and Command/control systems that can work on fully autonomous / semi-autonomous modes. Since the S-400 is expected to hit targets at extreme ranges, the radar is more powerful than the Patriots and has longer range.
In the end, these are two very different systems built with different goals in mind, both are effective, both seem to make their users sleep peacefully. So ‘yay’ to that.
Battle Field Experience
Late last year, the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a Burqan-2 missile (a Scud variant) aimed at the international airport in Riyadh some 600 miles to the northeast. The missile got to its target alright but due to the strains in the metal canister induced by the flight, blew apart with the debris littering parts of the runway and the road outside the airport.
The Saudis, however, claimed that they had fired five Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) interceptor at the intruder and had destroyed the Houthi Burqan.
US President Donald Trump visiting Saudi Arabia not long after that event crowed, “Our system knocked the missile out of the air. That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”
Except, and this is a kicker, an analysis by air defence experts of the debris distribution and of the parts of the Burqan system that the Saudis proudly displayed days after the attack, came to the conclusion, as reported in the American press, that the incoming missile had come apart by itself at the end of its trajectory and, more shocking still to Trump Admin officials, the Pentagon, and Raytheon — the maker of the Patriot, that all the five PAC-3 interceptors the Saudis fired had missed the target!
These are, as mentioned earlier, very different classes of weapon systems and such comparisons don’t yield accurate results. The Patriot has seen quite some combat, the S-400 not so much, but it’s theoretical capabilities (and from what NATO learnt from a Greek S-300 battery) make the west treat the S-400 with immense respect. The mere mention of the S-300 / 400 deploying in a certain country has altered the perception of strategic balances in the middle east.
US Arm Twists India to Buy Patriot-3 Systems
Last month Tina Kaidanow, principal deputy assistant secretary of the US State Department’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, came to Delhi on a triple-pronged mission — to press Delhi to sign the remaining two “foundational” agreements — COMCASA and BECA as follow up to the LSA; and to prevent India signing up to buy the Russian counterpart of the PAC-3, the S-400, for $5 billion; and to persuade the Modi government to buy instead the American product, PAC-3, that doesn’t work.
While Kaidanow’s visit wasn’t reported by the Indian media, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that India would go in for the Russian item even if it attracted US sanctions under the 2018 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was.
Apparently, the US State Dept official’s muffled threat of CAATSA did not work, nor did it “engender a willingness” on the part of the Indian government to think about the US PAC-3 system as replacement. And as regards COMCASA and BECA she was told nothing she could be reassured by.
“As a function of trying to move the defense relationship forward — and certainly the defense trade relationship — it is important that those foundational agreements are considered by the Indian government, they are acted on hopefully as expeditiously as possible,” Kaidanow told the Washington defence media. “Of course it is their sovereign right to decide on these things, but our hope is that we have presented to them some good options and some ways forward. Hopefully we can make some progress in that relatively soon.”
And pertaining to the F-16 and perhaps also the PAC-3, she said “American defense product is great product — it is the best in the world. It’s central that countries really think about when they acquire these things — and particularly when we’re talking about important systems … — that they think about the quality and the interoperability piece and all of the things that we know come with the acquisition of American products.”
Kaidanow is right. Buying military goods from the US comes with lot of attached baggage and just too many do’s and don’t’s, inclusive of the uncertainty attending on the spares supply, which can be stopped at any time on Congressional whim and an Administration’s fancy. And worst of all, the PAC-3 does not work as advertised.
Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi is convinced about the cons outweighing the pros or not, the political scene at home tilting against him suggests his government is unlikely during the remainder of its first term at least to sign any accords, or buy anything big from America, let alone nix the S-400 deal, go in for the PAC-3, and permanently turn Russia into an enemy.