Home South Asia India Indo-Russia S-400 deal: Counter-measures by Pakistan

Indo-Russia S-400 deal: Counter-measures by Pakistan

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Mariyam Masood |

Last year in October, India signed an S-400 deal with Russia worth five billion dollars. Under this deal, the S-400 defense system will be delivered to India in the next two years. Naturally, this deal has implications for Pakistan’s security matrix which impels Pakistan to counter this threat to strategic stability in South Asia. To fully appreciate how this system affects Pakistan, some details need to be laid out.

Firstly, India has purchased five regiments of this system out of which three will be deployed near the Pakistani border and the other two will be deployed near the Chinese border. The mere placement of these systems, disproportionate to the threat-spectrum emanating from China and Pakistan, puts a questions mark on the Indian narrative of countering nuclear threats from China.

S-400 is undoubtedly a very advanced and high-tech defense system that undermines South Asia’s strategic stability, Pakistan’s air defense capabilities render it almost useless.

The S-400 is significantly more defensive than THAAD and PAC-3, both of which are US made Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems. Naturally, this triggers a serious security concern for Pakistan. It is important to examine the make-up of S-400 system to understand how it affects Pakistan. The S-400 defense system is comprised of six types of missiles as interceptors to destroy imminent attacks. They can target and shoot down aircraft, cruise missiles, drones and ballistic missiles at the range of up to 400 KM using their two radars which will provide India a peak into Pakistan’s airspace.

Its surface to air strategic interceptor has been designed largely to target ballistic missiles and vital airborne platforms like Bombers, AWACS, ELINT Aircraft, and Tankers & Transporters. Undoubtedly, the S-400 defense system is a very capable and high-tech structure, so naturally Pakistan has to come up with some very capable high-tech countermeasures.

Read more: THAAD vs S-400: A comparative analysis

The system has a surface-to-air missile defense capability with a range of up to 400 KMs. It uses four different types of missiles for a complete cover. The missiles that are being used in the system are long range 40N6 (400km), medium range 48N6 (250km), Medium range 9M96E2 (120km), and Short range 9M96E (40km). The 40N6 missile gives it limited anti-ballistic missile system characteristics which can destroy a short-range ballistic missile. According to the deal, India will only be buying the 40N6 and the 48N6 missiles.

On the other hand, Pakistan has already developed enough countermeasures against this grave threat. First of all, Pakistan has developed MIRVs (Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) technology which allows a single missile to fire multiple warheads against more than one target. In January, 2017, Pakistan successfully tested its surface to surface ballistic missile named Ababeel which is capable of carrying multiple warheads. The S-400 cannot counter MIRVs owing to a limited target and kill capability, so it will remain as a potential threat to India.

Naturally, this deal has implications for Pakistan’s security matrix which impels Pakistan to counter this threat to strategic stability in South Asia.

Moreover, Pakistan is developing fifth-generation stealth aircraft in collaboration with China under project Azm. These aircrafts would not be detectable on the radars, hence, rendering S-400 ineffective against airstrikes by Pakistani stealth fighters. Secondly, Pakistan can use swarm attack tactic during conflict or crisis and maximize target saturation. In that case, no defense system in the world can counter a saturation attack as of now.

Read more: Does S-400 air defense missile system signal an end of Pakistan…

This is because no matter how advanced the defense system maybe, it would be unable to shoot down all the missiles continuously. Currently, India does not have the capability to counter saturation attacks. Saturation attacks can not only be done through the ballistic missiles but also through the use of cruise missiles, fighter aircrafts and non-guidance rockets. India may be able to stop some of those missiles but it is impossible to stop every last one of them. India would not be able to shoot down every last missile of Pakistan.

Thirdly, Pakistan can launch fake missiles using decoys to counter S-400 system in times of war.  In that situation, no system is capable of differentiating between a decoy missile and an actual nuclear missile presently. Another way to counter S-400 is to launch massive numbers of drones to confuse which target to select.

The S-400 cannot counter MIRVs owing to a limited target and kill capability, so it will remain as a potential threat to India.

In addition, cheap inflatable balloons are a simple way to counter the planned missile defense system. The missile defense interceptors endeavour to hit ICBM warheads in the vacuum of space, in this way, any such balloons would travel alongside the warhead, making it impossible to differentiate between decoys and a real warhead. Pakistan while delivering a nuclear payload to India could inflate many such balloons close to the warhead and overpower the defense system by swamping it with fake signals.

Read more: Pakistan’s missile technology: The perfect antidote for India’s S-400 purchase

And lastly, Pakistan’s acquisition of hypersonic missiles gives it an edge over Indian air defense. Hypersonic missiles move at very high speeds which makes it impossible for any current defense system to intercept these missiles. A hypersonic missile travels at the speed of Mach-5 and higher, which is five times faster than the speed of sound (3836 mph) or one mile per second. Pakistan’s current hypersonic missile Ghaznavi is a hypersonic and surface to surface short-range ballistic missile with the range of 290 km.

Therefore, while S-400 is undoubtedly a very advanced and high-tech defense system that undermines South Asia’s strategic stability, Pakistan’s air defense capabilities render it almost useless. Nonetheless, India’s introduction of this system in South Asia is clearly hinting at its ambitious plans of counter-force targeting, escalation dominance and overall hegemonic design to control South Asian politics.

Mariyam Masood is a graduate of Fatima Jinnah Women University and often writes on nuclear issues. She can be reached at mariyam60@live.com. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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  1. A logically developed and insightful research. Welldone Mariam Masood, undoubtedly, Indian desire to undermine Pak Air Defence capability with a Billion Dollar deal is wishful and not practical.

  2. Good thoughts on response measure. One correction though, S 400 isn’t against Pakistan’s ‘air defence ‘ but to counter our ‘strike’ capability along wide spectral strike platforms

  3. Afterall its S-400 not a Ghost and Pak shares long border with India, still this system has its own voids and probably they need to buy few more batteries for effective MDS for generaring any response

  4. China has purchased and tested S-400 missile. So, it can never be useless for Pakistan. Pakistan cannot purchase it because of financial constraints.

  5. The induction of S-400 might lower the nuclear threshold to a new level that is already precarious with the waivers and blessings by big powers to India. These moves have the capacity to lead the region in a spiraling arms race which can bring about an increase in instability through the escalation of an already dangerous arms buildup in the region.

  6. A nuclear expert from Moscow says despite heavy investments in developing anti-ballistic missile systems, India may not be able to fully defend itself in a conflict from strikes by Pakistani missiles.

  7. Stealth fighter is very far from Pakistan’s reach and also ageing fleet of F16 cannot defend itself against S400 and aslo if we think and watch practically no missile can escape S400 but Indian Agni 5 or 6 ,Brahmos , Pralay even su30 can destroy whole Pakistani fleet in seconds

  8. A very well researched effort. The Triumf though a very potent system has it’s own weakness which can be effectively exploited in the form of swarm attacks, use of MIRVs and definitely the employment of STEALTH aircraft. Additionally, there are evidences that China is developing a counter system against the S400. For time being Pakistan may not have purchased the S400 owing to it’s budgetary constraints however we have recently inducted LY80 System which can provide effective Air Defence capability to Pakistan. Moreover, induction of a new HIMAD would also take place towards end of 2019.

  9. Those who think Stealth fighters r way far from Pakistan’s reach they r living in fools paradise. It’s the Indians who after wasting years of time n money finally decided to back off from developing a joint fifth generation fighter with Russia. Even the LCA on which they had been working from many many years is showing no signs of joining the aging IAF fleet in near future. The IAF air chief himself has accepted in an interview that India is way behind Pakistan in developing an indigenous fighter aircraft whereas Pakistan has purchasing J20s from China is also on cards for Pakistan. So for the nincompoops all I can say is PAF IS SECOND TO NONE

  10. S-400 would not only destabilize strategic stability, but would also increase arms race in the region. It gives a false sense of security and can instill a tendency to pre-empt. The S-400 missiles neither destabilize Pakistan’s defensive fence nor make ineffective its offensive strikes. In addition, S-400 will not be able to cover the entire Indian Territory.

  11. This is the most ridiculous defense article by someone who has no Idea about a system which hasn’t been used in real combat situation so far. Am sure even the Americans don’t know if this system can target their Stealthy F-35 ( which Russians claim it can). Swarm attacks , false missiles ( literally lol’d it) against S-400? BTW how much resources does Pakistan have to launch a swarm attack ?.
    Plus if India launches a limited Aerial attack , what options do we have as a retaliation against S-400( Swarm attack /False missiles😂, options used in full scale war).
    Ans: S-400 is a defense system, Pakistan needs to have defense system that counters all Indian Aerial threats.Yes we have acquired HQ-9 from china but thats not simply enough.


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