Russia's defense technology sector is touting that Moscow's newest S-500 ‘Prometheus’ air defense system is capable of reaching targets in space, according to the latest statements from the First Deputy General Director of the VKO Almaz-Antey, Sergei Druzin. The VKO Almaz-Antey, or "Air and Space Defense Corporation" is a Russian state-owned company and the country's largest defense tech contractor.
Druzin told RIA Novosti this week that the S-500 can successfully take out “ballistic missiles of all types” and crucially that it's missiles are capable of “working outside the atmosphere where aerodynamic control is impossible.”
This next generation of deadly Russian anti-air defense systems is expected to enter service (or at least prototype testing) by 2020, with the first group of officers set to begin training courses this year, which Russian media has previously described as forming "the backbone" of the country's integrated air defense and missile defense shield.
Russian reports tout the S-500s range as capable of intercepting inbound projectiles at a distance of 600 kilometers. A prior TASS report said it could reach an altitude of 60km, which would put it in the Mesosphere of Earth's atmosphere — though there's long been debate over where 'outer space' technically begins.
The Russian internet news site Pravda.ru recently issued a report detailing the S-500s impressive sounding specs:
Russian state media began leaking early details of the next generation S-500 at the end of last year, at which point American defense officials began to muse over whether future Russian systems could soon take out US satellites.
It also constitutes a new threat to America's stealth arsenal of jets including the F-22, F-35 and B-2 bomber, as The National Interest previously noted:
...while most of Russia’s defense industry suffered following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has continued to churn out quality air and missile defense systems. This is evident from systems like the S-400, S-300VM4 and S-350. Once deployed, the S-500 is expected to be networked with these existing systems to provide an integrated defense system. According to Majumdar, some U.S. defense officials worry that this system will be so capable that it might pose issues for stealthy warplanes like the F-22, F-35 and B-2.
Though we could see operational tests of the S-500 by 2020, it's likely that only prototype versions would be delivered to the Russian military at that point; however, it's as yet a secret as to just how far along production of the S-500 really is.
We wonder: given the current slow but steady advance in Sino-Russian relations, and given the growing list of countries seeking Russia's current S-400 systems, is it only a matter of time before Beijing gets its hands on advanced S-500 missiles that could take out American stealth jets?