Capable of Downing F-35s, S-500 Missile System Becomes Key to Russia's Air Defense Force

Capable of Downing F-35s, S-500 Missile System Becomes Key to Russia's Air Defense Force
Russia'n S-500 air defense system

International Military - Russia claims its country is capable of downing stealth fighters from the United States (US) such as the F-35 or F-22. However, to date, this statement has not been verified. Apart from the S-300 and S-400, the S-500 is perhaps Russia's most advanced surface-to-air missile system.

Moscow is promoting it as an answer to advanced fighter aircraft such as the F-22 or F-35 from the United States (US). Little is known about the system, which is still in development and has little battlefield experience. But the S-500 system has extraordinary capabilities on paper.

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Officially labeled as the S-500 Prometey (Prometheus), the S-500 is also known as the Triumfator-M 55R6M. Russian state-owned company Almaz-Antey has spearheaded its development.

The system consists of four 40N6M long-range surface-to-air missiles or two 77N6 interceptors in a tube mounted on the 77P6 launch vehicle. It accompanies a series of advanced anti-ballistic missile target acquisition, engagement, and engagement radars.

The Russian S-500 is reported to have a range of 500 to 600 kilometers (310 to 372 miles) with a maximum range of up to 200 kilometers of altitude. It is said to be capable of fighting fifth-generation fighters as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, and even low-orbit satellites.

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It is impossible for outside observers to independently verify the actual combat capabilities of the S-500 system against fifth-generation fighters. Russian media also claim that the system will eventually be able to intercept hypersonic weapons, again, this is impossible to confirm.

In April, Yan Novikov, CEO of Almaz-Antey, announced that the S-500 system has officially entered mass production. However, as recently as May 2021, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko said that serial production of the S-500 would not start until 2025.

It is possible that the material demands brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine influenced the recent announcement, regardless of whether the S-500 was actually produced on a large scale. The S-500 Prometey has been in development since 2010, and deadlines for serial production in 2014, 2017, and 2021 were not met.

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The S-500 is not intended to replace the older S-400 surface-to-air system, but rather to meet the need to cover a specific threat profile that neither the S-400 nor the stationary A-135 anti-ballistic missile system can do. Moscow hopes that the S-500 Prometey will become an integral part of Russia's national air defense.

Some debate arose among Russian military leaders about whether a new unit would be formed to use the S-500, or whether an existing unit of the Russian Aerospace Forces would take the lead. Russian state media reported that the first deliveries of the S-500 system to the Russian Air Force are planned for air defense units stationed in the vicinity of Moscow.

In addition to the system's tests in Russia, the S-500 was reportedly field tested in Syria in 2019, although this has been vehemently denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Russian officials have also indicated that India could be an early recipient of the S-500 system, if so desired.

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Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that Turkey, a NATO member that the US had previously tried to prevent from buying Russia's S-400 system, would co-produce the S-500 with Russia.

Such a move is likely to trigger new sanctions and technological restrictions along the lines Washington imposed on Ankara for its S-400 purchase. While the Russian S-500 remains in relatively unknown numbers, it is clear that the Prometheus will play a key role in Russian air defense in the future.

Quoted from Military Watch Magazine, the S-500 missile system has a firing range of about 600 km, three times that of its closest Western rival. The S-500 missile system has the unique ability to intercept maneuverable hypersonic missiles at speeds exceeding Mach 10.

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The new and lethal S-500 missile system is designed to be able to neutralize fighter-sized targets and its extremely powerful sensors and precision missiles make it potentially very formidable in its role. However, the Russian-made S-500 system is not designed primarily for combat against other fighter or tactical aircraft such as the US F-22 or F-35 Eagle II.

The S-500 missile system is focused primarily on something bigger, such as neutralizing high-value targets such as strategic bombers, strategic ballistic missiles, satellites, and even spacecraft. However this Russian S-500 missile system has the potential to make an important contribution to overcoming enemy stealth aircraft.

The S-500 is also well optimized for neutralizing support aircraft that are vital to the effective operation of enemy stealth fighters such as the airborne early warning aircraft (AEW) coordinating NATO combat units. The satellites that are relied on for communication, navigation, surveillance and weapons guidance, can be neutralized by the S-500, where this will greatly hinder the operation of enemy stealth combat units.

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The S-500 may not be tasked with targeting enemy stealth fighters directly, but its capabilities allow it to seriously impede the effectiveness of enemy combat units.

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