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Climbing “Prometheus”: work on the S-500 – at the finish line


The Ministry of Defense announced plans to complete the creation of a new S-500 air and missile defense system as early as next year. Nevertheless, official information about weapons, which in their capabilities should be head and shoulders above all existing air defense and missile defense systems, is still scarce. According to Izvestia sources in the military-industrial complex, Prometheus will have two versions: mobile and towed. The latter will place launchers and radars on specially designed semitrailers. Izvestia figured out what the S-500 anti-aircraft missile system is and what tasks it can solve.

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Coming soon

According to the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces, Lieutenant General Andrey Yudin, it is planned to complete the creation of the S-500 mobile system in 2021. Earlier it was reported that this year began its state tests. While they are being conducted with a simplified configuration that does not have all the declared capabilities. The first full-fledged serial “Prometheus”, according to Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Krivoruchko, will enter the troops in 2025.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces, Sergei Surovikin, previously stated that the main task of the S-500 anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) will be the destruction of medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles at the end of the flight path. The defeat of aircraft, drones and hypersonic objects is also possible, but will not be a priority. In the future, they will add the ability to destroy low-orbit satellites.

Climbing “Prometheus”


Launch of missiles by S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems during the Kavkaz-2020 military exercises

Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

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To combine the possibility of working on such different objects, the complex uses several types of missiles – some against atmospheric targets, others against space targets. The serial 40N6 with a range of up to 400 km will fight the aircraft. The S-400 is already equipped with such missiles.

The satellites will shoot down other, larger and heavier 77N6 ammunition. The scheme of combining missiles of different purposes in one system has already been tested on the S-300V4 mobile air defense system of the Ground Forces, which was developed in parallel with the Prometheus.

Due to the need to detect a wide variety of targets for the system, it was necessary to design several radars with different functions. Some will be responsible for detecting objects in near space, others for aerial targets at high altitude and range. As in the case of the S-400, it is possible to add specialized radar stations to detect subtle and low-flying targets.

Climbing “Prometheus”


Early warning radar 92N6A SAM S-400


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Both towed and mobile versions of anti-aircraft missile systems have their advantages and disadvantages, said Lieutenant General Aytech Bizhev, ex-deputy chief of the Air Force for the CIS Joint Air Defense System.

“The towed ones are mainly used to cover stationary objects, and the mobile ones are used in the rapidly changing situation in the theater of operations,” he told Izvestia. – The maneuverable complex needs a few minutes to turn around, shoot back and immediately change its location. The disadvantage is that if this machine fails, the whole complex turns into a big target. And towed equipment can be picked up by any tractor. But she does not have such mobility and maneuverability. It takes more time to prepare for firing, which is important in anti-aircraft combat. The decision on the use of certain systems will be made by the commander, depending on the situation and on the protected objects.

The S-500 will not replace the complexes of the previous generation, but supplement them, providing mainly anti-missile and anti-space protection. The main and most numerous air defense system will remain the S-400 Triumph. The Pantsir-SM, S-350 Vityaz and Buk-M3 air defense missile systems will operate at the close range. “Prometheus” will be able to exchange information with them and work together under the control of automated systems. This is a standard feature for all new types of air defense systems put into service.

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Tests and Secrets

In the spring of 2018, the powerful Yenisei radar detector, developed for the S-500 system, was captured on video from the Russian Aerospace Forces exercise at the Ashuluk training ground. It was announced that it could detect aeroballistic targets at altitudes up to 100 km and a distance of 600. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yuri Borisov said that work on the S-500 was “practically completed.”

“Prometheus” was created from the very beginning in deep secrecy. Officially, the appearance and characteristics of the promising complex have not yet been presented. For the first time, information about the new air defense system appeared in the media in 2009. But in fact, designers and scientists have been working on it for much longer. November 5 marked the 19th anniversary of the development contract under the code “Triumfator-M”. It was signed between the Ministry of Defense and the Almaz NGO back in 2001. The first few years were spent developing the concept and performing scientific research to provide the S-500 with characteristics that radically exceed its predecessors.

Climbing “Prometheus”

s-400Photo: RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov

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Work on the “Prometheus” intensified after the completion of the creation of the previous generation S-400 air defense system. Almaz-Antey even built a new enterprise for this weapon. According to the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, the final assembly of the S-500 and S-400 systems on a car chassis and semi-trailers on a wheel chassis since 2018 has already been carried out by the Nizhny Novgorod Machine-Building Plant.

The American media, citing a source in the intelligence agencies of their country, reported that during the tests of the Prometheus they managed to record the defeat of an air target at a record distance of almost 500 km. This is higher than the declared maximum missile range for the S-400.

Information about the development of transatmospheric missiles for the S-500 has not yet appeared. Prometheus may have to wait for heavy anti-satellite munitions. Most likely, it will repeat the history of the S-400, which was originally purchased without the 40N6 long-range missile – its tests were delayed. This is evidenced by statements by officials who say that the new system is still being tested in a simplified version.


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