Russia to bolster air defense: S-500 acquisition confirmed in 2024

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On April 23, Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu, made a significant announcement. He revealed that Russia’s military forces would start receiving the latest S-500 anti-aircraft missile systems in 2024. Interestingly, these systems will be available in two distinct formats: ballistic missile defense [BMD] systems and extended-range anti-aircraft missile systems. 

Photo credit: Izvestia

This cutting-edge S-500 missile system first caught public attention in 2015. Back then, it was still in its design phase. However, by 2021, the system, named Prometheus, had entered serial production. In May of the same year, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that testing was nearing a successful completion.

An article published by Izvestia, attributed to a source within the Ministry of Defense, disclosed a significant test conducted by the Russian Armed Forces. This test demonstrated the S-500’s capabilities against hypersonic targets, painting the Prometheus in a very promising light. On February 22, 2024, the S-500 proved its mettle by accurately engaging and destroying an R-29RMU2 Sineva intercontinental ballistic missile. This impressive show of force, launched from the Tula nuclear-powered submarine cruising in the Laptev Sea, was intercepted over the Chizha test site, located in the Arkhangelsk region.

Video screenshot

The test

The Russian Ministry of Defense has reported that the S-500 Prometheus successfully passed all operational benchmarks during its evaluation, solidifying its capacity to handle both current and future aerial threats. This mastery in managing hypersonic targets marks a significant advancement in air defense technology, positioning Russia at the forefront of missile defense capabilities. 

Instead of following in the footsteps of the S-400 Triumph, the S-500 Prometheus is designed to enhance it. Intriguingly, the S-500 system can assume command roles for the S-400. Against aerodynamic targets, ultra-long-range 40H6M anti-aircraft missiles, already incorporated into the S-400 system, are deployed. Additionally, the 77N6 anti-missiles are used for intercepting ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere, likely in near space. 

Photo credit: Reddit

About S-500

Known alternately as the 55R6M “Triumphator-M”, the S-500 Prometheus represents a new generation of Russian surface-to-air/anti-ballistic missile systems. Created by the Russian defense company Almaz-Antey, it’s an enhancement of the S-400 missile system.

The S-500 system boasts a sophisticated and multi-faceted battery architecture. It comes equipped with a command center, radar installations for spotting, tracking, and zeroing in on missiles, and launchers specifically engineered for the purpose. The sheer level of mobility it offers is remarkable, thanks to all its components being affixed to heavy-duty vehicles designed for swift deployment and repositioning. 

This system also demonstrates the impressive application of various radar systems, each serving a unique function. One of the main radars is a versatile phased array radar tasked with tracking aerial objects and ballistic missiles. Enhancing its capabilities, it utilizes a range of other radar types for effective target acquisition, missile guiding, and deriving crucial feedback post-launch. 

The S-500 also delivers when it comes to range, one of its most striking features. Sources suggest it operates over extensive distances; up to 600 kilometers for aerodynamic targets and a staggering 400 kilometers for ballistic ones. Such extended range enables the S-500 system to vigilantly surveil vast territories, providing a robust shield for key strategic holdings.

The S-500 missile system utilizes two specific missile types: the 77N6-N and the 77N6-N1. These innovative Russian missiles, equipped with inert warheads, are designed to demolish nuclear warheads by utilizing purely kinetic force. Their mission is to identify, intercept, and annihilate ballistic missile warheads, hypersonic cruise missiles, and other aerial threats. 

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Kosmos-1408

It is reported that Russia has put the S-500 through rigorous testing “in a real environment”. The test subject was the Russian satellite Kosmos-1408, which was destroyed in orbit on November 15, 2021. The impact transformed the satellite into thousands of pieces of space debris. In response to this incident, US Space Command expressed their concerns, “On November 15, 2021, Moscow Time, Russia conducted a missile test, creating a direct trajectory for a satellite interception. The missile struck the Russian satellite, Kosmos-1408, littering low Earth orbit with debris.” 

A later statement by the command underlined Russia’s ongoing commitment to anti-satellite systems. “These systems pose a significant threat to strategic stability, and by extension, to every country,” stated Dickinson. It’s important to bear in mind that there is no concrete evidence directly linking the S-500 to the Kosmos-1408 incident. However, a compelling argument has been made by many Russian analysts who believe the S-500 is the prime suspect. BulgarianMilitary.com urges us to keep an open mind on the subject.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

S-550?

In 2019, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu dropped a fascinating cue during a press event. He casually referred to President Putin’s concentration on the advancements of internal missile and aerial defense systems, specifically mentioning the S-350, S-500, and the rather less-known S-550 for the military. 

At first, industry analysts conjectured that the S-550 might be a version of the S-500 with a lesser operating range, akin to the S-350 which is a mid-range missile intended to supplement the more extensive range S-300 and S-400 systems. The well-established Russian news agency, TASS, stimulated our recollections of the S-550 mobile ballistic missile defense [BMD] system. It was conceptualized during 1981-1988 but was never officially deployed. 

Photo credit: Russian MoD

Further enlightenment came later on from Sergei Chemezov at the Dubai Air Show. He elucidated that the purpose of the S-550 was to detect and neutralize ballistic missiles from a larger range compared to the S-500. Additionally, he affirmed the completion of the fundamental components needed to actualize the system. 

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