Where is the Russian S-500 air defense system?

In late August, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to a factory of air defense systems maker Almaz-Antey to inspect its artillery production, impressing upon the company the importance of working around the clock, according to the state news agency Sputnik.

This was Shoigu’s second inspection of an Almaz-Antey property this year, having visited another facility in June that makes anti-aircraft missiles, the government Tass news agency reported.

During the most recent visit, Shoigu and the head of Almaz-Antey highlighted the effectiveness of the S-300, S-350 and S-400 air defense systems amid Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, the more advanced S-500 Prometheus air defense system was not mentioned.

Russia has sought the S-500 as a means to counter hypersonic weapons and would be able to reach further into enemy territory. The weapon is expected to defeat threats at a range of 600 kilometers (373 miles), according to the Center for International and Strategic Studies think tank. In comparison, the S-300 and S-400 can reach 150 kilometers and 400 kilometers, respectively.

Already in 2018, President Vladimir Putin called for mass production of the S-500. However, the manufacturer of it seems to be behind schedule.

According to Michael Jerdev, a Russian military expert, international sanctions imposed on the country may negatively influence work on the air defense system.

“Russia can multiply the production of air defense missiles, mainly missiles of the 48N6 family, as they are technological products with minimal dependence on foreign components,” Jerdev said, referring to the main series of missiles for the S-400. “As for the production of anti-aircraft complexes and radars themselves, their production has a long cycle and depends on the supply of foreign electronic components, which obviously does not allow them to be produced 24 hours a day.”

Furthermore, according to an Almaz-Antey employee, the company has “problems with machine tools and a shortage of components.”

“The company’s [production rate] has increased,” the source told Defense News on condition of anonymity to speak freely, but “there are not enough workers.”

Get to know Prometheus.

The development of aerospace defense capabilities has been one of the main components of Russia’s State Armaments Program since 2020.

The program should lead to the deployment of 100 battalions, including 800 launchers composed of S-350, S-400 and S-500 systems. Under the latest iteration of Russia’s State Armaments Program, also known as GPV-2027, funds will go toward the production of the S-500 Prometheus. The previous iteration, GPV-2020, laid out efforts to create, produce and maintain military equipment.

Russia began developing the S-500 in 2010, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which tracks the status of air and missile defense systems. In 2011, Russia unveiled plans for two new plants to produce the S-500; They were inaugurated in 2016. According to Russian media, an S-500 system would cost between $700 and $800 million in 2020 and up to $2.5 billion in 2023.

Production of the S-500 for the Aerospace Forces began in 2019, according to the head of the Russian defense conglomerate Rostec, Sergey Chemezov. The Ministry of Defense and local company Almaz-Antey signed a contract for the supply of more than 10 S-500s in 2021, with the first delivery expected in 2022, Tass reported during the MAKS 2021 air show.

Also, in 2021, the 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army, whose primary mission is the defense of Moscow, received its first S-500 system. However, the system arrived in a reduced configuration that did not meet all the defense force’s requirements. Experts who spoke to Defense News specifically cited the lack of exoatmospheric missiles.

“Almaz-Antey and other air defense manufacturers currently manufacture products intended to meet the needs of a military operation,” Jerdev said. “Neither the S-500 nor the Abakan air defense system have targets in Ukraine – ballistic missiles – so their production is not a priority.”

Launch Capability

Available information on the S-500 indicates that it can defeat threats at a range of 600 kilometers (373 miles) and at an altitude of up to 200 kilometers (124 miles). However, Russian media have recently reported that the S-500’s range is closer to 500 kilometers and can reach an altitude of up to 100 kilometers.

According to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the S-500 can launch several interceptor missiles, including “the 40N6M for use against aircraft and cruise missiles, and the new 77N6 and 77N6-N1 to counter ballistic missiles or satellites. ” ». The 40N6M has a range of 400 kilometers, while the 77N6 series interceptors can achieve a range of 500-600 kilometers, according to the think tank.

“Initially, the S-500 was positioned as a better system than THAAD [the American-made high-altitude area defense system] with the possibility of exoatmospheric interception. At the same time, it had to be more compact than the S-400. However, the S-500 does not turn out to be more compact,” said Pavel Luzin, senior researcher at the Center for European Policy Analysis think tank. “In addition, the 40N6 rocket, which equips the S-500, is already used in the S-400 and is not unique.”

Where is the Russian S-500 air defense system?

In 2014, reports indicated that the S-500 would launch 77N6-H and 77N6-H1 missiles. Since then, the development of the first has been confirmed, but the status of the second, intended to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit and equipped with a low-yield nuclear warhead, is unclear.

«According to its characteristics, the S-500 seems to be superior to the S-400, but it falls quite short of THAAD: there is no exoatmospheric interception. The dimensions of its 77N6-N anti-missiles are smaller than those of the PRS-1M/53T6 missiles of the Nudol [anti-satellite] system, [so the interception height of the former] is lower,” Luzin said.

According to a Russian colonel who spoke anonymously for security reasons, the second stage of the 77N6-N anti-aircraft missile is identical to the second stage of the 9M82MV missile used by the V4 variant of the S-300. The first stage has aerodynamic controls that maintain efficiency only in the upper layers of the stratosphere and lower layers of the mesosphere, about 50 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, the colonel added. If it were to maneuver into low-orbit zones, the 77N6-N would need a compact, lightweight third combat stage, but no such stage exists.

Experts interviewed by Defense News doubt that the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missiles can provide the S-500 with the precision necessary for its mission. These missiles were supposed to be the first Russian missiles with inert warheads, but the domestic industry has been unable to acquire the necessary quality of electronics, Luzin and the colonel stated.

Additionally, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov stated in June that the S-500 will be able to intercept hypersonic missiles. However, the colonel explained that the S-500 has not been tested for this capability and that it does not appear that Russia has target missiles that reflect the characteristics of a hypersonic weapon.

Plans for an S-550

The State Armament Program is also expected to achieve by 2027 the creation of the S-550, an anti-missile and anti-space system with improved detection capabilities and greater range compared to the S-400 and S-500.

In November 2021, Putin stressed the importance of supplying S-550 systems to the military during a meeting with defense and industry officials, according to Shoigu.

That same month, Chemezov, CEO of Rostec, stated that the S-550 would have a longer detection range and improved missile range compared to existing air defense systems.

Experts interviewed by Defense News differed in their assessments of the S-550’s potential capabilities but agreed that the system will complement the S-500’s capabilities and that its primary goal will be to defeat hypersonic targets or satellites. There is currently no evidence that Russia developed the S-550.

Via- defensenews Maxim Starchak