Russia’s S-500 ICBM Killer Remains Unreliable; Deployment Delayed

By | Oct 17, 2016 09:04 AM EDT

S-500 on its TEL (concept drawing). (Photo : Almaz-Antey)

There is every reason to believe Russia's much-advertised but trouble plagued S-500 Prometey (Prometheus) self-propelled missile defense system that can allegedly shoot down hypersonic glide vehicles and ICBMs won't be entering service in the "near future."

The Russian Aerospace Forces last May announced the imminent delivery of the high-altitude SAM, also called the 55R6M "Triumfator-M." At the time, Lt. Gen. Viktor Gumyonny, Commander, Russian Aerospace Forces, said he expects "the first samples of the S-500 anti-aircraft missile system to be delivered soon."

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Made by the state-owned Almaz Antey Concern, the S-500 air and missile defense system will protect high value Russian sites such as the Kremlin against U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (both land and sea launched) and hypersonic glide vehicles with speeds in excess of Mach 5 (6,200 km/h).

Its claimed range of 600 kilometers means this SAM should be able to engage ICBMs in space. It's also claimed the system can detect and simultaneously attack up to 10 ballistic missile warheads using hit-to-kill interceptors (the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1) similar to the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

That's the claim but the reality is the system, which was first expected to enter service in late 2016 or 2017, is now expected to achieve this milestone at an undetermined time in the near future.

Western military analysts said Russia hasn't yet conducted any rigorous testing of the S-500 and there is little evidence of the Russians ever having done so. Hence, the continuing delays in deployment.

"I have seen nothing to indicate that the S-500 air/missile defense system has been deployed," said Paul Schwartz, a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank.

"There are reports that it will be deployed later this year (2016), but I remain skeptical.

Other analysts claim Russia might produce a modified version of the S-400 Triumf as an interim system, and call it the S-500 to save face. The S-400 has been in service in Russia since 2007 and versions of this SAM have been sold to China and India.

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