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Russia’s Mighty S-500 Anti-Aircraft System is No Joke

An F-15E Strike Eagle flies in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility Jan. 27, 2021. The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, demonstrating U.S. Air Force Central Command’s posture to defend and deter against potential aggression. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Carnes)

It could be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world, and it appears ready to enter serial production.

Russia’s S-500 air defense missile system made a public appearance in a video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense (see above) which showed the missile system targeting a “high-speed ballistic target.”

“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 Russian Ministry of Defense explained in their release — and that explanation could very well be accurate.

S-500: The Latest & Greatest

According to Russian sources, the S-500 would initially supplement the S-400, which would then be gradually phased out. The S-500’s development has been rocky, however. Russia has been developing the system since at least 2009, and it is expected to enter service sometime this year, down from a previous estimate of 2025 — that being said, Russian defense acquisition timelines are notoriously inaccurate.

Like other air defense systems (the previous S-400 included), the S-500 would be able to target both aircraft as well as ballistic missiles. That being said, it is unclear if the newer air defense system would rely on the same missiles that the S-400 is equipped with.

Interestingly enough, one Russian source claimed that the S-500 would be able to engage hypersonic weapons, facilitated by new interceptor missiles. Additionally, a variety of missiles are thought to be compatible with the system, allowing the S-500 to offer a more tailored response to a diverse array of threats.

More for Turkey?

Though Turkey is a member of the NATO Alliance, Ankara has drawn the ire of the United States and other NATO Allies due to Turkey’s recent acquisition of the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system. Though the S-400 is likely less capable than the new S-500, it is nonetheless regarded as a potent air defense system.

The S-400 acquisition had serious geopolitical repercussions for Turkey. Though the country was a member of the American-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program — Turkish companies had been integrated into the F-35 component production chain, and Turkish pilots had undergone F-35 pilot training in the United States — the United States expelled Turkey from the stealth fighter program on the grounds that the Russian S-400 system could be manipulated to gather data on the F-35’s stealth characteristics.

Despite the steep consequences of the expulsion, Russian media reported that Turkish President Erdogan expressed interest in acquiring the newer S-500 missile defense system in addition to the S-400.


Though preliminary, the S-500 is also thought to have better jamming resistance than its predecessors. In any case, the S-500 represents potentially a much more potent air-defense system than the S-400. If true, the system’s ability to engage hypersonic missiles could represent a new and particularly challenge to NATO.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.



  1. Pete

    July 22, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Clickbait with no information. Thanks.

  2. Jerome

    July 22, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Consider this: Turkey remains a member in good standing of NATO, and I don’t recall any Trump or Biden threats to kick Turkey out of NATO. It may very well be the case that NATO are using Turkey to acquire Russia’s S-400 and perhaps even S-500 systems while optimizing software and tactical operations of F-35 and various other weapon systems (recall that U.S. are updating our ICBM and SLBM systems as well as implementing our NGAD fighter, B-21, and various hypersonic missiles and artillery shells) to overcome the admirable capabilities of the Russian systems. U.S. gained extremely valuable intelligence in WW2 by the good fortune of capturing intact enemy aircraft and submarines. With the prospect of capturing S-400 or S-500 systems after some future conflict begins seeming extremely unlikely and incomprehensibly costly, the gambit of offering Turkey’s share of participation in the F-35 program has already proven to be a win with the S-400.

  3. Brian Foley

    July 23, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    I get a kick out of writers who literally regurgitate press releases from manufacturers or government agencies. To be honest no one should take the S-300 or S-400 or S-500 lightly, they are anti-aircraft missile systems and the Russians have a reputation for building good anti-aircraft missile systems…and at the same time, let’s stop the hysterical overhyping of Russian equipment which has become rampant among writers lately. Can the Russians produce good gear, of course they can and they have….but this continuous “The Sky is Falling” philosophy spouted by writers today (who have never laid eyes on the systems they scream about nor have they ever seen independently confirmed testing of those systems) get their nickers in a knot over every new and shiny toy the Russians threaten us with…it’s sad really. Writers these days think the Russians and the Chinese are ten feet tall and bullet proof. All of their gear works as advertised and none of ours work against their magical abilities. Give the enemy their due but let’s also be realistic about it.

  4. Yura Timoshenko

    November 9, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    Too bad that so much resources and effort are spent on mutual suspition. If we were able to overcome this, life would be so much better perhaps. Billions are spent to ward off potential threats while both countries have no money left to pay their teachers decent salaries. I used to live for many years in both US and Russia, and it makes me sad. Life is short and difficult as is, and we miss a lot of available resources because of this inherent fear ( Hopefully AI implementation will force us all to unite and change social structure from this primordial standoff to one of cooperation and unity… If you think that it is a silly dreaming, look back at the North American continent – it used to be filled by small warring tribes, then loo and behold – within couple of centuries it became just 2 friendly countries and no more wars within its borders. Can you imagine channeling all defence budgets into science and social development?

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