Russia’s S-500 missile system still in development but the 77N6 hypersonic missiles are key to a real ballistic missile defense

Russian media in April reported that S-500 prototypes were “expected to enter service in late 2016 or 2017” as a replacement to the S-300. U.S. observers say the S-500 have not yet been deployed and doubt Russia can stick to that timeline.

“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 think tank in Washington, D.C. “There are reports that it will be deployed later this year, but I remain skeptical.”

It is possible that Russia will roll out a modified version of the S-400 as an interim system, and they may call it the S-500.

The thing to look for will be whether Moscow can deploy the 77N6 missiles, as these are the key to developing a real ballistic missile defense system

The new interceptors, the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1, suggest that S-500 system will employ hit-to-kill.

The S-500 system is expected to be capable of simultaneous engagement with up to 10 targets at a maximum range of 600 km. The S-400 can only handle a maximum of six targets up to a range of 400 km. The S-500’s interceptors will operate at an altitude higher than 185km. The system will have a response time of about three to four seconds, which is considerably shorter than the S-400 which is rated at nine to ten seconds.

The system will be highly mobile and will have rapid deployability. Experts believe that the systems capabilities can affect enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles at the end and the middle portion, but reports by Almaz-Antey say that the external target designation system (RLS Voronezh-DM and missile defense system A-135 radar Don-2N) will be capable of mid-early flight portion interceptions of enemy ballistic missiles, which is one of the final stages of the S-500 project.

Two new missiles have been designed for the S-500 (and the S-400): the 77N6-N and the 77N6-N1. They were reported to be capable of direct engagement with targets flying at hypersonic speeds (seven kilometers per second). However, it is not clear when the 77N6-N and the 77N6-N1 enter service.

The main components of the S-500 will be:

  • the launch vehicle 77P6, based on the BAZ-69096 10×10 truck;
  • the command posts 55K6MA and 85Zh6-2 on BAZ-69092-12 6×6;
  • the acquisition and battle management radar 91N6A(M), a modification of the 91N6 (Big Bird) towed by the BAZ-6403.01 8×8 tractor;
  • the 96L6-TsP acquisition radar, an upgraded version of the 96L6 (Cheese Board) on BAZ-69096 10×10;
  • the multimode engagement radar 76T6 on BAZ-6909-022 8×8;
  • the ABM engagement radar 77T6 on BAZ-69096 10×10;

The first units will be deployed around Moscow and the country’s center area, with targets it will defend against to include ballistic missiles, hypersonic cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, low-orbit satellites, and space weapons launched from hypersonic aircraft, drones, and hypersonic orbital platforms. A naval version is the likely armament for the new Leader-class air-defense destroyers due to enter service in 2023-25.

SOURCES- Military, wikipedia, missile threat