Moscow Weighs Options to Procure S-500 Air-Defense Systems

March 25, 2021

The Jamestown Foundation – Eurasia Daily Monitor:


After many delays, Russia’s Ministry of Defense is finally considering the most suitable ways to introduce the new S-500 Prometheus surface-to-air missile (SAM) system as part of its wider air-defense modernization. The S-500 reportedly will offer enhanced defense capabilities against ballistic missiles and satellites. The defense ministry expects the first deliveries to arrive this year, with Russian-occupied Crimea as a high priority for the earliest deployment and wider introduction by 2025. The internal discussions within Russia’s defense establishment appear to center around whether to form new structures to accommodate the S-500 or to utilize existing air-defense units. In December 2020, Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec corporation, said that the S-500 developer Almaz-Antey had passed all the necessary state tests, allowing procurement to begin in 2021. The S-500 was also reportedly tested in Syria. This marks a significant and long-awaited boost for Russia’s air- and missile-defense capabilities (, March 24).

According to defense ministry sources, the S-500 is not designed to replace the S-400 or other air-defense systems and complexes. Rather, it will fill a niche between the S-400 and the stationary A-135; the latter provides strategic defense for Moscow Region against attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). At the same time, the S-500 will form the future basis of a unified national air and missile defense being formed to protect the Russian Federation. The S-500 can easily be integrated into an overall single and unified air-defense system. The S-500 will consist of a combat command post with an automated control system (avtomatizirovannoy sistemy upravleniya—ASU), a radar complex, including a multifunctional “illumination” radar, and up to 12 anti-aircraft missile launchers mounted on a Russian- or Belarusian-built chassis. The system can detect targets at up to 2,000 kilometers. To defend against bombers, reconnaissance aircraft or airborne command posts, the S-500 uses the 40N6M missile with a range of up to 400 km. To intercept ballistic missiles or target satellites, it uses the new 77N6-N and the 77N6-N1; the specifications of these are unknown (Izvestia,, March 24).

Alexander Gorkov, the former chief of the anti-aircraft missile forces of the Russian Air Force explained, “Most likely, no additional reconnaissance and support units will be required in the new units and formations,” adding, “If we talk about the number of systems, it will depend on where the regiments will be located and what functions they will perform. Most likely, there will be more units in the border regions and on the cover of especially important objects. How many complexes will be included in this or that part depends on what kind of outfit of forces and means the probable enemy will plan. This is called an open structure. As for the brigades, this is a connection: respectively, there should be systems for various purposes. In addition to the S-500, it can also include short-range and medium-range air-defense systems, depending on the capabilities of the automated control system.” Gorkov’s observations highlight the key element of the ongoing defense ministry’s options: whether to form new structures for the introduction of the S-500 or use existing air-defense units (Izvestia, March 24)…


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