Farther than ever before

 

The New Russian Surface to Air Missile makes its debut

 

In May 2018, US News Network CNBC quoting ‘ unnamed sources familiar with U.S. intelligence on the Russian program’revealed that Russia had successfully conducted the test firing of a new Surface to Air Missile (SAM) which had hit a target almost 300 miles (over 480 Kilometres) away which was 50 miles further than any known test.

 

This is the farther than any surface to air missile has ever gone before.

 

The new SAM was revealed to be the S-500  known as the Triumfator-Mor Prometheus,said to be under development  since 2009. According to the Russian media, the missile when fully operational, will be able to engage targets up to 370 miles ( about 600 Kilometres) away.

 

With the nearest comparable missile systems to be the Russian S-400 and US THAAD( Terminal High Altitude Air Defence, earlier known as the Theatre High Altitude Air Defence), S-500 is in a league of its own. The US system with a range of about 150 kilometres particularly seems like a poor cousin of the S-500 which will also be serving the same purpose of ‘theatre high altitude air defence’.

 

With a family of missiles that the S-500 system uses, it can engage different types of targets – from aircraft, drones, cruise missiles and even ballistic missiles though the anti- ballistic missile role will be its primary role, more so as a supplement of A-135 anti-ballistic missile system and the S-400 missile system. The main missile with the S-500 is the 40N6 missile a 30-feet long, two-stage solid fuel missile capable of reaching speeds of 9 Mach having a blast-fragmentation warhead with a range of 310 miles and 95-percent accuracy.

                            

S-500 system  is expected to use the 91N6A(M) battle management radar which is a modification of the 91N6 radar, a modified 96L6-TsP acquisition radar( an upgraded version of the 96L6 (Cheese Board), as well as the new 76T6 multimode engagement and 77T6 ABM engagement radars. The othercomponents will be the launch vehicle 77P6, command posts 55K6MA and 85Zh6-2

As  an article in Russian magazine Sputnik noted that the ground-based radar systems are useless in space. To cater for this, it is expected that the 40N’s homing system will differ from what can be found on all other air defence missiles. With its one-of-a-kind self-homing warheads search for their targets and, finding them, switch to an automatic-homing mode.

As and when it happens, deployment of S-500 will undoubtedly have significant impact on the balance of power as  the system will be able to perform more traditional air defense functions at extreme ranges. The extended range will force the adversary’s  airborne warning platforms like the E-3 Sentry AWACS further away from the frontline, seriously affecting their ability to carry out air operations.

 

No matter where the S-500 systems get deployed, the ability of Russia to hit targets is going to increase manifold and that is what needs to be factored in.  For example, a S-500 system deployed in Russia’s base at Khmeimim in Syria will give Russia the range to hit targets in an arc extending from over Northern Israel to Western Iraq. In Europe, Russia could well cover the Baltic states from the Kaliningrad enclave. Similarly, it will be able to the Korean Peninsula and Japan, extending its reach as never before.

 

All this is in the realm of possibilities and speculation as of now. The main issue being – when will the S-500 system enter service. As of date, it is not clear when the system will become operational though reports suggest that Russian military was considering purchasing at least five complete batteries and have them in service by 2020. However, the date may be pushed back,  ironically enough due to the success of S-400 and the large export orders that Almaz-Antey has got. With its production line committed till 2015 and no details available as to where Almaz-Antey plans to make the S-500, it may be a while when S-500 finally becomes fully deployed and operationalised.

 

References:

Joseph Trevithick, Russia’s S-500 Air Defense System Reportedly Hits Target Nearly 300 Miles Away, The Drive, May 24, 2018, http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/21080/russias-s-500-air-defense-system-reportedly-hits-target-nearly-300-miles-away

 

US Media “Uncovers” Secretive Russian S-500 Anti-Air Missile Tests, May 25, 2018, https://sputniknews.com/world/201805251064798991-missile-tests-allegations-reports/

 

S-500 Prometheus https://missilethreat.csis.org/defsys/s-500-prometheus/

 

S-500 Long-range air defense and anti-ballistic missile system http://www.military-today.com/missiles/s500.htm

 

Dmitry Sudakov, Russia’s S-500 Prometey to nail USA’s THAAD to the wall Oct 24, 2017 http://www.pravdareport.com/russia/economics/24-10-2017/139011-s_500-0/