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The S-500 Air Defense System: Description and Advancements

The S-500, also called Prometey (eng. Prometheus) or 55R6M Triumfator-M, is an air defense system currently under development in the Russian Federation. According to TASS news agency, the deputy CEO of Almaz-Antey, company that is developing this system, stated on the 20th of July of 2017 that “The Almaz-Antey defense manufacturer is completing the trials of a high-altitude missile interceptor” for the S-500 system. According to the same source, “some elements of the new S-500 antiaircraft missile system have now successfully passed the basic part of the trials”. DefenseWorld.netPravda.ru or Rueconomics.ru state that the delivery of the system is scheduled for 2020.

At a glance, the specifications of S-500 are:

  1. Surface-to-Air (SAM) class system with a response time of 3 to 4 seconds;
  2. Fire range of 500-600 km and fire altitude of 40 km by using hit-to-kill interceptors at 7 km/sec.;
  3. Ballistic missile detection range is 2000 km whereas for warheads is about 1300 km;
  4. Can intercept Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles at the end and the middle portion of their trajectories;
  5. Can detect and simultaneously attack up to 10 ballistic missile warheads;

Description

The development of S-500 was started in 2002 by the Almaz-Antey company as a completely new design (S-500 is not an upgrade of the S-400 system). The announced components of the S-500 system are:

  1. The missiles and launch vehicle:
  2. The missiles used by S-500 are:
    1. 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 hypersonic missiles that will travel at 7 km/sec. The missiles will have inert warheads which can destroy nuclear warheads by force of impact (i.e. only by hitting them with precision at great speed, no explosives are needed).
  3. The launch vehicle 77P6
  4. The command posts are based on the BAZ-69092-12 chassis (6×6 truck) and include:
    1. 55K6MA command post as an evolution of the S-400 55K6E battery command posts;
    2. 85Zh6-2 command post that might be used for an extended battery.
  5. The radar system includes:
    • The acquisition and battle management radar 91N6A(M), a modified version of the 91N6 (Big Bird) on a BAZ-6403.01 chassis (8×8 truck).
    • The 96L6-TsP Acquisition Radar hosted on BAZ-69096 chassis (10×10 truck), a direct derivative of the 96L6-1 series used as a battery acquisition radar and command center in the S-400.
    • The 76T6 multimode engagement radar hosted on BAZ-6909-022 chassis (8×8 truck). Based on the characteristics of this radar, it is reasonable to conclude that it is an updated version of the 92N6E (Grave Stone), intended to provide guidance against aerial and Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) targets.
    • The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) engagement radar 77T6 on BAZ-69096 chassis (10×10 truck).

All its components are carried on chassis from the BAZ-6909 family vehicles, in 6×6, 8×8, 10×10 configurations, which indicates that S-500 will be a highly mobile and survivable system, made for “hide, shoot and scoot” operations. According to sources from the Russian defense industry, Russia also develops a new generation of its radio communication systems for the S-500 (fully protected against eavesdropping) to be ready in 2018.

The S-500 will be networked with similar systems (S-400, S-300VM4 and S-350) to create an integrated air-defense network. Therefore, according to Russia News Now, the system will need to integrate all air defense complexes in Russia and become a sort of hub (data fusion control center) that will distribute tasks to the other air defense systems. Furthermore, it is expected that the system will conduct the destruction of targets in an automatic mode (the system itself assigns the targets priority then the command of the operator carries out the start-up). Another important feature is the destruction of the targets by the principle “shoot and forget” where the operator does not need to control the interceptor missiles towards the target.

Deployment

The schedule is to deploy the S-500 during the upcoming years as a replacement of the current A-135 anti-ballistic. The possible range of the missiles used by the S-500 covers partially the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States and most of Europe as detection range for its radars.

Conclusions

The S-500 system complements the already existing systems with an extended detection and fire range. The system will be a major upgrade to the S-400 complex that is already in service, and also its US counterpart – the Patriot Advanced Capability-3. From the design point of view, the S-500 represents a pattern disruption by not being an incremental design based on S-400.

There are claims according to which the S-500 system can detect and attack simultaneously up to 10 ballistic missile warheads using the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 hit-to-kill interceptors, similar to the U.S Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. US defense industry officials claim that the stealth technology becomes useless against the S-500 system, which is able to destroy stealth targets like the F-35. On the other side, there are some concerns about having to confront an adversary which has purchased such technology using faster processors within an Integrated Air Defense System capable to detect aircrafts (even the stealth ones in some instances).

The Russian army will receive the S-500 system during the next coming years (2020) and it’s expected to become the basis of the unified national anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system. Until then, the system is still under testing, and according to Vladimir Lyaporov, the head of the Zhukov Air and Space Defense Academy, the training of the specialists set to work with the S-500 system was already launched.

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