Earlier this month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared that Russia would complete updating missile defense systems by the end of the year to safeguard Moscow.
According to Shoigu, Russia plans to have an air defense division and brigade, a special purpose air and missile defense brigade, an anti-aircraft regiment equipped with the S-350 surface-to-air missile complex, a Razvyazka space surveillance radar station, and a brigade of special operations for air and missile defense up and running by the end of 2023.
As of 2020, a substantial portion of the Russian State Armament Program has been devoted to developing aerospace defense capabilities. Since its inception in 2011, more than 3.4 trillion rubles (about $44.3 billion) have been invested in the project, with air defense improvement accounting for around 17.5% of that amount.
Ukraine launches drones near Moscow.
The ongoing long-range drone attacks by Ukraine on Russian bases have made the need to modernize Russia’s air defense systems all the more pressing. Russia, for instance, recently claimed that a suspected Ukrainian Tu-141 Strizh drone was shot down by electronic warfare equipment in a village only 180 kilometers from Moscow.
Since 2014, Ukraine has had in its arsenal the Tu-141, a fast, long-range surveillance drone developed in the Soviet Union. Kyiv forces are suspected of having reused these. drones, equipped them with explosive payloads, and used them to attack targets in Russia, as they lacked longer-range missiles and rockets.
Ukraine previously utilized similar drones, which have a range of approximately 1,000 kilometers, to target important Russian airbases — Engels and Dyagilevo — on December 5 and December 26 of last year. When Ukraine did not claim these strikes, it was observed that these bases were closer to the Russian capital than Ukraine’s borders.
Will Ukraine attack Moscow?
Drone attacks on Russia have increased overall. The Russian military put Pantsir anti-aircraft defense systems on the rooftops of some administrative and defense buildings in central Moscow in January, as evidenced by images and videos posted online at the time. The impression was that they were preparing to launch an attack on the capital.
A small Ukrainian UJ-22 drone apparently crashed last month on the outskirts of woods near a gas compression station, not more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Whilst the repeated drone attacks did not cause major damage, they did show the extent to which the once-powerful “Russian weakness” had been exposed, and they showed that Moscow needed to strengthen its air defense architecture.
The Moscow air defense cloak
Russia’s air and missile defense forces are currently commanded by the 1st Air and Missile Defense Army, responsible for patrolling Moscow and the central industrial zone. The 1st Army of Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missile Defense regiments are armed with S-300 or S-400 platforms. The Russians claim that both systems have proven very effective on their own.
Russia to receive S-350 systems soon.
At the 2013 MAKS airshow, Russia debuted the S-350 Vityaz, a medium-range surface-to-air missile system. The Russian military reportedly received this system in 2019.
The S-350 system’s interceptor is the 9M96 guided missile, which can engage aerial and ballistic targets between 1.5 and 120 kilometers away and at altitudes of 10 and 30,000 meters.
In February, a prominent Russian military analyst, Alexander Mikhailov, said that the S-350 Vityaz is a more affordable and accurate alternative to the US Patriot missile system.
“The Patriot does not shoot down targets that fly below 100 meters, while the Vityaz does it from 10 meters above,” the Russian expert told the Russian state news agency TASS. This puts into perspective the increased importance attached to its deployment in Moscow.
The S-500, which can withstand the impact of a ballistic missile, will be part of Russia’s proposed special air defense and anti-missile brigade, which will be deployed with the 15th Aerospace Forces Army. Apparently, the S-500 will be manufactured under the State Armaments Program, commonly known as GPV-2027.
The S-500 has entered series production.
In April of 2022, Yan Novikov, general director of the Russian defense technology firm Almaz-Antey, declared that serial manufacture of the S-500 (Prometheus) had begun.
In 2021, the Russian Ministry of Defense and Almaz-Antey signed a contract to supply more than ten S-500s, with delivery expected in 2022. But, in the previous year, which saw the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, no shipments were sent.
A state-of-the-art surface-to-air missile system, the S-500 Prometheus can fire missiles up to 600 kilometers away (370 miles). It is a multi-role high-altitude interception system with enhanced missile defense capabilities intended to intercept and shoot down stealth aircraft and ICBMs.
These cutting-edge enhancements further highlight the significance of this system, which will shortly be deployed with the Special Purpose Air Defense and Missile Brigade.
The S-550 air defense system is scheduled for completion by 2027 as part of the Soviet State Armament Program.
The S-550, with improved range and the ability to identify and track enemy weapons more effectively than the S-400 and S-500, is apparently part of the plan. Aerospace forces might expect to receive the S-550 in 2025.
Russian battle stations
In addition, Shoigu also announced that the Russian Defense Ministry would activate the battle alert system at the Razvyazka space control station this year. This will replace the Dunai-3U long-range radar station from 1978 to the early 2000s.
The current Don-2N radar station, which has been operating in the Moscow area since 1989 and has recently undergone upgrades, will be complemented and assisted by the Razvyazka early warning radar. Razvyazka is a P-band radar. Its main purpose is to catalog and work with space objects in high orbit.