What are the advantages of the new Russian missile defense system S-500?

Compared to the S-400, the performance is significantly improved.

Source: Sergey Malgalkov

The original article has been published in Inosmi. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.


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Recently, the Russian media reported that this year tests of the new generation S-500 anti-aircraft missile system will begin, deliveries are planned for 2025. This news fell on NATO as a heavy artillery strike, because as soon as the S-500 complex officially goes into service, the balance of missile defense forces will change.

Compared to the S-400, the performance is significantly improved.

The S-500 is a fifth-generation anti-aircraft missile system developed on the basis of the fourth-generation S-400 air defense system, which has undergone technical modernization, as a result of which its combat capabilities have been significantly improved. Functionally, the S-500 is superior to the S-400 in the following areas.

Firstly, its maximum reach in height is 180 kilometers, while the S-400, this figure is only 30 kilometers. Therefore, like the American THAAD complex, the S-500 can perform combat missions at high altitude at the final flight site, intercept long-range ballistic missiles and low-orbit satellites inside and outside the atmosphere, and also combine the interception radius with another Russian strategic anti-missile system A- 235.

Secondly, the maximum radius of the S-500 exceeds 600 kilometers, while the S-400 it is only 500 kilometers. Thanks to this, the S-500 can more effectively withstand the attacks of NATO combat aircraft carried out out of sight. Thirdly, the new air defense system has better maneuverability when intercepting missiles. He is able to attack targets moving at a speed of up to 7 kilometers per second (about 20 Mach).

The S-400 intercepts missiles flying at a speed of 4.8 kilometers per second. The S-500 air defense system can simultaneously intercept up to 10 high-speed objects, including ballistic and hypersonic missiles, as well as low-orbit satellites, which the S-400 air defense system is not capable of counteracting.

In Russia, the S-400 was called the Triumph, and the S-500 was called Prometheus, comparing it to the hero of ancient Greek myths, who stole the fire guarded by Zeus and gave it to people, thereby destroying the plan of the thunderbolt to destroy humanity. It is easy to see in this the determination of the Russian side to face off with the United States in the field of air defense.

Three main advantages of the S-500

In order to maintain secrecy, the Russian media did not publish much information regarding the S-500. However, now from foreign publications we can conclude about the many advantages of the new anti-aircraft missile system.

Interceptor missile: high level of interception at low cost

As you know, to destroy an attacking object in American anti-aircraft missile systems, an interceptor kinetic projectile (KKV) is used, and Russian S-400 and S-500 missiles use the principle of directional fragmentation of a target. Based on some data, it can be concluded that the S-500 air defense interceptor missile is controlled by the thrust vector, but it is not mentioned anywhere that it must be faced with a target. At the time of the directed explosion, the rocket may be 3-5 meters from the target. The result of using this technology is very similar to the effect produced by the kinetic projectile-interceptor, but the cost of the Russian missile is much lower than the American one.

The 77N6-N long-range missiles used by the S-500 complex are equipped with second-stage engines that use secondary ignition technology. The flight height of the rocket can reach 70 kilometers, it is controlled by the aerodynamic and gas steering wheel, as well as the thrust vector. The system that controls the direction of the missile’s flight has become more sensitive and accurate. The maximum deviation was reduced to 3 meters, almost equal to the kinetic projectile interceptor.

Guidance on the final section of the flight path of the 77N6-N rocket is carried out through the combined use of inertial control, semi-active radar homing and dual-range thermal imaging technology. The latter allows you to distinguish between real and false missiles, and also has high noise immunity.

Ground-based radars have increased detection rates

According to the information available, each S-500 air defense system is equipped with four ground-based radars: a 96L6-CP three-coordinate radar operating in the C-band, an S-band panoramic radar early warning system with phased array 91N6E, a 77T6 anti-missile fire control radar and a multifunctional radar with an active phased array operating in the X-band and performing tasks of observation, search, tracking and target identification. The air defense system is also equipped with a 76T6 multifunctional radar sighting system. According to analysts, the 76T6 radar is also a multifunctional phased array radar operating in the X-band. In terms of efficiency and range, it is only slightly inferior to the 77T6 radar. The 76T6 and 77T6 radars work together, the first is responsible for targets located at long and medium distances, and the second is for close and low-flying targets.

In accordance with the plan for the development of Russian weapons, which provides for the “gradual creation of the new, inheriting the old,” the S-500 ground equipment is a modernized version of the S-400 complex, so the 96L6-CP and 91N6E radars are unlikely to be seriously improved. Nevertheless, the 77T6 anti-missile fire control radar has considerable advantages. This is the first use of a phased array radar in the Russian anti-aircraft missile system. It is reported that gallium arsenide T / R modules are installed in the radar, advanced technologies for adaptive beam formation and control, as well as fiber optic transmission are used.

According to analysts, the 77T6 radar can be compared with the American anti-missile radar with the AN / TPY-2 headlamp mounted on the THAAD complex. This multifunctional radar with an active phased antenna array operates in the X-band, its average power is 300 kW, the radius of action exceeds 600 kilometers, which is practically no different from the 77T6 radar.

The control and command post and the machine with the launch control station have unique characteristics

Control and command equipment S-500 is a regimental guidance station, consisting of a command and staff vehicle 55K6MA and a combat control point 85Zh6. Most likely they are a modernized version of the 54K6E control and communication machine used with the S-300. The regimental guidance station also has a panoramic radar early warning and control system with phased array 91H6E. Based on information about the enemy, the regiment headquarters sets the task of intercepting fire units. Russian anti-aircraft missile systems, including the S-400, are installed on all vehicles with radar and staff vehicles subsystems for navigation calculations. The complex includes a receiver receiving information from the GLONASS satellite navigation system.