The S-500 is probably Russia’s most advanced surface-to-air missile system. Moscow promotes it as an answer to advanced fighter aircraft such as the F-22 or F-35. Little is known about the system, which is still in development and has scant battlefield experience. But the S-500 system possesses formidable capabilities on paper.
Officially labeled as the S-500 “Prometey” (Prometheus), the S-500 is also known as the 55R6M “Triumfator-M.” Russia’s state-owned company Almaz-Antey has spearheaded its development.
What We Know, What We Don’t Know
The system consists of four 40N6M long-range surface-to-air missiles or two 77N6 interceptors in tubes mounted on a 77P6 launch vehicle. These accompany an array of advanced target acquisition, engagement, and anti-ballistic-missile engagement radars. Russia’s S-500 reportedly possesses a range of 500 to 600 kilometers (310 to 372 miles) with a maximum reach of up to 200 kilometers of altitude. It is touted as being capable of countering fifth-generation fighters as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, and even low-orbit satellites.
It is impossible for outside observers to independently verify the true combat capabilities of the S-500 system against fifth-generation fighters. Russian media also claim that the system will eventually be capable of intercepting hypersonic weapons – again, this is impossible to confirm.
Getting the S-500 Into Production
In April, Yan Novikov, the CEO of Almaz-Antey, announced that the S-500 system had 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 begin until 2025. It is possible that the material demands brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine influenced the recent announcement, regardless of whether S-500s are actually being produced at scale. The S-500 Prometey has been under development since 2010, and deadlines for serial production in 2014, 2017, and 2021 went unmet.
A Complementary System
The S-500 is not intended to replace the older S-400 surface-to-air system, but rather to fill a need to cover certain threat profiles that neither the S-400 nor the stationary A-135 anti-ballistic missile system can counter. Moscow hopes that the S-500 Prometey will thus become an integral part of Russia’s national air defenses. Some debate exists among Russia’s military leaders about whether new units will be stood up to utilize the S-500, or whether existing units of the Russian Aerospace Forces will take the lead.
Russian state media reported that the first deliveries of the S-500 system to the Russian Aerospace Forces were planned for air defense units stationed around Moscow. In addition to tests of the system in Russia, the S-500 was reportedly field-tested in Syria in 2019, although this was emphatically denied by the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian officials have also indicated that India could be an early recipient of the S-500 system, if it so chooses. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that Turkey, a NATO member which the U.S. previously sought to deter from buying the Russian S-400 system, would jointly produce the S-500 with Russia. Such a move would likely trigger new sanctions and technological restrictions along the lines of those Washington imposed on Ankara for its purchase of the S-400.
While Russia’s S-500 remains a relatively unknown quantity, it is clear that the Prometheus will play a key role in Russia’s future air defense.
Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill and the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.
May 17, 2022 at 3:41 pm
Dear author: S-400s are designed to shoot down F-22s, F-35s, etc. Do you even know how many there are in Russia? Do you know what the S-500 is for in Russia? Or S-550? You have written that you are a researcher. It’s a shame, dear Wesley.
Daniel T Cascino
May 17, 2022 at 7:08 pm
Waste of paper. I don’t see any of there systems doing well in Ukraine. I mean a helicopter got behind there border for heaven sake…they don’t have the trained personal even if there systems do work…
May 17, 2022 at 7:45 pm
A little boy. Learn to distinguish between stealth aircraft and low-flying helicopters. Maybe you’ll be a little smarter.
May 18, 2022 at 12:22 am
Alex is typical Russian slow-thinker, so we need to explain. The Ukrainian helicopters were able to attack Russia without getting shot down. This means, if Russia cannot stop a low-flying helicopter, then Russia has no hope of stopping F-35’s.
I tried my best to make it simple for Alex to understand, because Russians cannot understand anything that is not given to them by the Russian dictatorship propaganda. Russians are not taught to think independently.
I suspect Alex was punished and beaten as a child for even thinking independently. Now, Alex spends his life crushing freedom around the world by spreading the dictator’s propaganda.
May 18, 2022 at 12:02 pm
You’re so stupid you don’t even know how radar works. Disgrace here every day, ignoramus.
May 19, 2022 at 5:21 am
There would be no need to deploy the weapons in the Ukraine, because the need for it has arise
May 17, 2022 at 6:14 pm
Note the F35 was build specifically for the s500 as soon as the light up the radar here comes the missiles. PS our spy’s in the sky will find them and there gone look at the s300 in Ukraine they are getting destroyed every day it will be no difference. Bada boom.
May 17, 2022 at 6:48 pm
And as soon as they throw that radar on they’ll get an HMG-88 down their throats if there on a joint mission
May 17, 2022 at 7:48 pm
Invade Russian territory with funny “invisible” planes. Do it.
May 17, 2022 at 9:47 pm
If you haven’t learned anything from the Ukraine debolical that Russia created, believe only what you see and nothing of what they say. Their competence is fleeting at best.
May 18, 2022 at 1:10 am
OK so far the Su-57 is junk and with $Revenues falling everywhere its going to be a stretch to produce a couple let alone what’s needed . Forget the F22 or the F35 if Russia cannot handle Javelins , Stinger’s or Neptune’s as the World has witnessed
May 18, 2022 at 10:09 am
S-500 is a disaster. It was supposed to be delivered in 2013, 2017, and 2019. It’s still not in service. All the claims of its capabilities are on paper. Since its adevertised detection capabilities extend to 600 km, it uses meter length waves for detection. That means low resolution. To get anything out of it, you need serious processing capabilities, which Russia does not have. Its native developed CPU, Elbrus, was produced in Taiwan, and it’s no longer available. NVIDIA is out of the question.
To paraphrase Monty Python, ‘If it’s made in Russia, it’s crap!”
May 18, 2022 at 12:05 pm
Yes Yes Yes. The same was said about the S-400. How many thousand missiles now? Fully meet the needs of Russia. And the S-500 is no longer just in service, but in serial production. Moreover, the S-550 was also tested in service with the A-235. But the Bandera trolls will not believe this, unlike the smart US military.
May 18, 2022 at 10:15 pm
Apparently not enough 1000s to bring down all of Ukraine’s mig-29s let alone an f-35. It’s just sad that you don’t realize how foolish you are.
June 9, 2022 at 5:32 pm
If the enemy can’t see it, they can’t shoot it.
F-35 has a Radar Cross Section of ~ 0.005m
F-22 has a Radar Cross Section of ~ 0.0001m
Longer wavelength radar could maybe detect the stealthy aircrafts but not very precisely; longer wavelength radar emissions can be targeted with long range missiles too. What’s harder to hit with a missile, an aircraft emitting little radiation or a stationary land target emitting a lot of VHF? Hmm.
US 5th gen fighters vs the most advance Russian air defenses remains untested but my money is on USA winning any conventional war. This is why Russia spends so much on it’s nuclear missile forces.