Russia Still Developing S-500 Surface-to-Air Missile Systems: Analyst

Some readers took issue with last week's post on Russia's plans to deploy the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems to Crimea next month.

Specifically, they questioned whether the S-400 is Russia's "most advanced" SAM and pointed out that the country, through its state-owned Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern, is developing a newer system called the S-500 Prometey with even greater range (some 370 miles vs. 250 miles) to target stealth aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

So it's worth following up to note that this newer system, by many accounts, is very much still in development.

While Russian media in April reported that S-500 prototypes were "expected to enter service in late 2016 or 2017" as a replacement to the S-300, U.S. observers say they haven't yet been deployed and question whether the government can stick to that timeline.

"I have seen nothing to indicate that the S-500 air/missile defense system has been deployed," said Paul Schwartz, a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "There are reports that it will be deployed later this year, but I remain skeptical."

In an email to Military.com, Schwartz pointed out that even the U.S. had to rigorously test and modify its anti-ballistic missile systems over a long period before fielding effective technology.

"We have seen little to indicate that the Russians have carried out such testing," he said. "It is possible that they will roll out a modified version of the S-400 as an interim system, and they may call it the S-500."

More importantly, Schwartz said, "The thing to look for will be whether Moscow can deploy the 77N6 missiles, as these are the key to developing a real ballistic missile defense system."

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