THE FIRST unit of S-400 Triumf, the state-of-the-art air defence missile system bought from Russia, has been deployed in Punjab for protection against any strike from Pakistan and China, The Indian Express has learnt.

Sources said the system has been deployed at one of the five IAF bases in the state, which borders Pakistan. The system is already available with China, which deployed it along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh amid the border standoff.

India’s deployment will provide a major fillip to its air defence capacity as the weapon system is capable of neutralising assets from over 400 km away. The unit deployed is part of the five squadrons bought in 2018.

Among the most advanced such systems in the world, the S-400 is capable of protecting its air defence bubble against rockets, missiles, cruise missiles and even aircraft.

The delivery of the first unit had started in November, according to Russian officials. Bought for over US$ 5 billion, the deal became contentious after it drew the threat of sanctions from the US for engaging in large defence contracts with Russia.

During his visit to India weeks earlier, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Lavrov had said the deal was “pragmatically significant for ensuring India’s defence potential”.

“So far, everything is proceeding as planned. The agreements are being fulfilled. We see attempts by the United States to undermine such cooperation and impose the purchase of its own weapons on India and follow US conceptions of how the region must develop,” Lavrov had said.

However, during the talks, Russia’s “Indian friends stated firmly and clearly that India was a sovereign state and would itself decide what armaments to buy and who will be its partner here and in other spheres”, Lavrov had said.

In November, Dmitry Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, had said that “supplies of the S-400 air defence system…are proceeding on schedule”.