Russia Tests Its Most Advanced Missile Defense System Yet: The S-500

It's capable of destroying ballistic missiles, as well as planes and helicopters.
Ameya Paleja
The S-500 during its trial in southern RussiaRussian Ministry of Defense/YouTube

Days after showcasing its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, the Russian military has now tested the S-500 air defense system, Reuters reported.

An upgrade to the S-400 system, the S-500 was marred by delays over many years but progress has recently picked up pace. 

The live test, shared on YouTube by the Russian military (embedded below), showed the truck-based system bringing two massive launch tubes into position and then releasing the radar before a missile was fired into the sky at a high-speed ballistic target.

Parts of the video were allegedly blurred to hide the full operation of the missile that was used on the system.

S-500 air defense system in action

The S-500 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is reported to have a range of 373 miles (600 km). Apart from defending from conventional aerial attacks from planes and helicopters, it is also capable of destroying ballistic and cruise missiles.

The system is also likely to be able to intercept stealth aircraft, like the U.S.'s B-21 stealth bombers, as well as to destroy hypersonic weapons and satellites in space, The Moscow Times reported

"The S-500 anti-aircraft missile system has no analogues in the world and is designed to defeat the entire spectrum of existing and promising aerospace attack weapons of a potential enemy in the entire range of altitudes and speeds," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The first S-500 system will be delivered to the Air Defense and Missile Defense unit to defend the capital city of Moscow, the statement read. Currently, Russia uses the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system along with the S-500's predecessor, the S-400 Triumpf, which are currently based around Moscow.

Dubbed the 55R6M "Triumfator-M", and "Promotey" (Prometheus in Russian), the S-500 has been in the works since 2009. It faced significant delays before Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko set a 2025 date for its rollout last year, per The Drive. 

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The recent S-500 test claimed the title of Russia's longest-range SAM test ever, reported The Drive, showing just how much the project has picked up pace. It may even be rolled out sooner than 2025, although the Defense Ministry did not provide any additional time frame. 

The S-400 is one of Russia's famed defense exports, also termed as "best air-defense systems" by The Economist in 2017. Even with that title it became a political hot potato later on, but with its recent fifth-generation fighter jet unveiling, it's clear to see that Russia is aiming to up its export game in the near future. Perhaps the S-500 will also fall into that category. 

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