(This was originally posted in The Eurasian Times)
The S-500 has garnered global attention for supposedly being the best missile system that the world has ever seen. With the system’s domestic delivery finally happening, other countries’ hopes of exporting the system have shot up.
The S-500 Prometey (Russian for Prometheus), also known as Triumfator-M, is the much-anticipated “successor” to the S-400 and boasts a variety of best-in-class features. In terms of range, the new missile system is quite a significant improvement over the S-400. It is believed that the S-500 is able to take on enemy aircraft at roughly 500 km and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 600 km.
To add on, the SAM comes equipped with new homing warheads. It can simultaneously track and target up to 10 missiles, each flying at a speed of over 5700 km/hr. The S-500 air defense system uses two new types of missiles — the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1. Both of these can be fitted with an inert warhead so as to destroy incoming nuclear missiles by force of impact.
The Russian defense industry has claimed that the S-500 will also be able to fire the 53T6M missile, a novel hypersonic interceptor developed as part of the A-135 missile defense system. This interceptor can reach a top speed of 14400 km/hr, or Mach 14 speed. The S-500 Prometey is also capable of launching extended-range missile 40N6M along with missiles currently used by the S-400. The 77N6 series of missiles are supposedly capable of intercepting ICBMs, hypersonic cruise missiles as well as other aerial objects flying over speeds of Mach 5.
The system is expected to have a much shorter response time of about 3-4 seconds, considerably faster than the S-400 rated at 9 to 10 seconds. It has been designed to counter a wide range of aerial threats, including ballistic missiles, manned aircraft, as well as cruise missiles. Additionally, the S-500 can be configured to fire a variety of different missiles
The manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, claims that the S-500 can also threaten certain low-orbit satellites and defeating fifth-generation aircraft. However, the full extent of this system’s capabilities remains to be determined. It seems that the S-500 is intended to serve alongside the S-400. With its advanced capabilities, this system can boost the current S-300 and S-400 systems, providing an extra layer of defense against saturation strikes. It is likely to show a whole other level of performance against threats such as hypersonic weapons, too.
Moscow is hoping that the system will not only bolster its own defenses but also become an export best seller. After the testing of the system began last year, the Russian military had said that the first batch would be deployed around the country’s capital.
India – Potential Cusomer?
As early as 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that Ankara and Moscow would jointly produce the S-500. This statement came despite the controversies surrounding Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system from Russia. However, so far, there is no news of this collaboration materializing in any form.
The same year in August, there were also reports of China having inked a deal with Russia for the Triumfator-M. It is still a potential buyer. However, another Asian country is eyeing the S-500. Russian Deputy PM Yury Borisov, speaking at the oil and gas forum in Tyumen on September 16, said India may become the very first buyer of the S-500. However, the supply of the same will only be discussed after the Russian armed forces are equipped with the systems, he added.
He highlighted that it’s a common practice to not sell abroad until the country’s own military is armed with the weapon system. He also clarified that while India is a potential client, no decision for any agreement has been made yet. “But this is a prospect, I think, not for the next few years,” the official said, adding that export versions of S-500s will differ from the systems that will go to the Russian military.
India’s keenness to acquire the Triumfator-M is should be seen in the backdrop of the protracted border standoff with China. It is quite obvious that air bases, aircraft carriers, and huge military cantonments are being threatened by long-distance missiles. This is changing the war scenario, making investing in long-range radars and rapid response missiles a necessity.