US arm-twisting India to buy Patriot-3 systems instead of Russian S-400

Image result for pics of the Pac-3 INTERCEPTOR


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 that  “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.” Trump is a loud, less than, credible snake oil salesman at the best of times. As promoter of the PAC-3 he is eminently ignorable, as is any US official urging friendly countries to buy this air defence system whose worldwide publicity is far better than its performance.

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!

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.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to US arm-twisting India to buy Patriot-3 systems instead of Russian S-400

  1. AD says:

    That the Indian government would seriously consider purchasing a substandard SAM system like the Patriot-3 says volumes about the short-sightedness (or greed) of those involved in the decision making process. And this is before factoring in the volatile nature of american foreign policy as well as deeply ingrained racism prevalent within their establishment. Only a USA-worshiping idiot or thoroughly corrupted person (maybe both?) would buy expensive and substandard products from such an ungrateful and fickle supplier.

    What do they hope to achieve by trying to “please” the USA? A largely useless permanent seat at UN security council? Entry in some equally useless nuclear group? More trade with USA? China has achieved all of that and more in spite of having a reasonably hostile outlook towards USA and the west. Power only recognizes power, not grovelling and submission. I am sure that more than a few Mir Jafars.. I mean mandarins.. in New Delhi are counting on such deals to provide them with USA-funded sinecures in addition to getting their kids properly “settled” in USA.

    • &^%$#@! says:


    • Vishnugupt says:

      I am not a fan of “Uncle SAM”, but Putin’s Russia is not saint either, the USSR has historically ripped us off in collusion with left leaning MOD/MEA babus on each and every arms deal since the 60s starting from the MIG21s.
      The S-400s for a BILLION DOLLAR a piece is even a bigger ripoff.This is because ‘Almaz-Antey’ the company which designs S-400 is a PSU like every defense company in Russia which means they don;t pay taxes and pays peanuts to its scientists and engineers and other factors of production are state owned, and that would in turn imply that the cost of production is very less compared to the American counterparts even after including the R&C cost invloved.

      There is little doubt that S-400 is “currently” the best system in service and if one looks at other parties buying the S-400, China and Turkey, which are the most notorious “reverse engineers” in the world, so Putin knows very well that it is only a matter of time when his prized S-400 would be taken apart by the Chinese and the Turks and reverse engineered to build a system which will beat even the S-500 in due time, that’s why he is overcharging them and he is justified in doing so.

      But in India’s case is different,Putin knows very well that we don’t have such audacity to reverse engineer his weapons and yet he hasn’t lowered the price even after Delhi repeatedly asking for a discount .For god’s sake we are still building SU-30s in CKD mode.

      And to make it worst, the more advanced S-500 has already hit the production line, and make no mistake Putin will in due time “gift” a couple of S-500 to Pakistan for it’s “war against terror”, if in case India decides to reduce the purchase of arms from him.

      It appears that Putin is finally learning the art of salesmanship which was hitherto uncle SAM’s forte, and make no mistake this is a big trouble for India.

      • sanman says:

        I doubt that Russia would sell or gift an advanced cutting-edge system like S-500 to Pakistan. Certainly, Pakistan would not be able to afford the pricetag for such a system – and the Russians would not give away such a prized system cheaply or for free. Russia needs a relationship with India as leverage against China, so I doubt they’d strongly antagonize India by fully tilting towards Pak – especially when shaky bankrupt treacherous Pak is not a great quality ally.

      • Kya says:

        Height of grovking by Indian coolie class before the americans!
        This class is traitor to her freind too – how dare they even compare usa who wished indias destruction in 60s and 70s with russua who gave most advanced weaponry on Worthless rupee term ?
        Honestly the dogs who bark for enemy of india , should be isolated and then shot dead.

  2. Vivek says:

    What if in 2019 congress coalition comes in to power. Do you think they will also deal USA with same mindset?

  3. &^%$#@! says:

    Well written and factual article.

  4. &^%$#@! says:

    The Indian system is among the corruptest in the world. However, corruption is everywhere, though in most instances the situation is better than in India. The :”devils brew” that destroys a Nation is corruption + incompetence. These two are in abundance in India, If iIndia’s sovereignty is gravely endangered, it is because of these two attributes,

  5. Atul says:

    Read your article here …

    You have distinctly enumerated all those issues that are affecting the US-India bilateral relations.
    Its a pity to see the lady keeping herself safe in the widely known arguments while completely ignoring difficult issues and concerns that you have pointed out.

    Seems either the Trump Administration is not realizing the intensity of Indian concerns or deliberately ignoring whatever is not palatable. In contrast, his deference to others in Asia is quite obvious !!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.