S-500 Prometheus: Russia’s Answer to NATO’s Air Superiority!

The S-500 Prometheus is a cutting-edge air and missile defense system, designed to protect cities and conflict areas from a wide range of threats, including hypersonic missiles and spacecraft, with the ability to operate autonomously or as part of an integrated air defense system.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

This year, Russia’s Air Defense Troops will acquire a much-needed capacity boost, including the new S-500 air and missile defense system, amid the ongoing proxy conflict with NATO in Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on April 23 that more S-500 Prometheus missile systems will be supplied to the Russian military this year. According to experts from Russia and worldwide, the S-500 is one of the most cutting-edge and powerful air and missile defense systems currently in operation.

Almaz-Antey, a key Russian manufacturer and developer of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense weapons against missiles, is responsible for developing the S-500 Prometheus road-mobile air and missile defense system. In 2021, Almaz-Antey delivered the first S-500 brigade set to the 15th Special Purpose Aerospace Forces Army. This particular unit is assigned the responsibility of protecting Moscow and central Russia. Almaz-Antei general director Yan Novikov announced the start of mass production in the spring of 2022.

All of the information currently available concerning the S-500 system originates from Russian media outlets and the opinions of specialists. 

The S-500 can be employed to defend cities like Moscow and in conflict areas. It can be transported by military aircraft and operates on a wheeled chassis. This enables the speedy deployment of the “Prometheus” to any point in Russia to bolster the missile defense system. The mobile S-500 is meant to attack missiles and spacecraft in near-Earth orbit and targets flying at hypersonic speeds. The 40N6 missile is intended for aerodynamic targets, but the 77N6 missile, which has both conventional and nuclear warheads, is meant to intercept ballistic missiles in the atmosphere and near space. Other missile types are yet to be named. It is probable that a missile interceptor with capabilities similar to the silo-based 53T6M ((ABM-3 Gazelle/ 80 kms/ a component of the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system) will become one of the levels of the S-500 missile defense system.

The S-500 can use information from missile attack warning stations to operate autonomously or as part of an integrated air defense system, engaging with the S-400 and S-300. The S-500 “Yenisei” radar detector outperforms standard S-400 radar systems and can identify targets from up to 2,000 kilometers in near space.

The system primarily aims to combat medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs). It can independently intercept MRBMs with launch ranges of up to 3500 km and, if necessary, intercontinental ballistic missiles on the final stage of their trajectory and in the middle stage within certain constraints. These interception capabilities should cover specific regions, large cities, industrial facilities, and key strategic targets.

The anti-aircraft system is responsible for destroying hypersonic cruise missiles, low-observable aircraft, and UAVs. These may include conventional high-altitude and hypersonic missiles with 5 Mach or higher speeds, low-orbit satellites and space strike vehicles launched from hypersonic aircraft, strike hypersonic UAVs, and even orbital platforms.

With a proposed engagement radius of 600 km, it can identify and engage up to ten ballistic hypersonic targets traveling at speeds of up to 7 km/s and hypersonic cruise missile warheads. 

The system’s interceptor missiles are equipped with autonomous onboard radar components that empower them to execute kinetic assaults while in flight.

Like other similar systems in its category, the S-500 comprises an intricate and challenging-to-understand ecosystem of auxiliary equipment (which may be combined or detached based on requirements). This ecosystem comprises reloader vehicles, a command post, and one or more target acquisition radars.

The S-500’s designation for long-range engagement with missiles, aircraft, and spacecraft renders it a highly valuable target. In the face of short-range threats, its efficacy is negligible to non-existent. It is ideally accompanied by Buk, Pantsir-S, and other shorter-range air defense systems to guarantee its safety. 

The potential configuration of the S-500 comprises several 77P6 launch vehicles that house air and missile defense missiles. The S-500’s dual launch container payload distinguishes it from the S-400 and other S-series launch vehicles; rather than the usual four 55K6MA or 85Zh6-1/85Zh6-2 command post vehicles, the S-500 uses two.


Radars may include the 96L6-1 acquisition radar, 91N6A(M) early warning target acquisition and battle management radar, or 76T6/77T6 ABM engagement active phased array radar. Other optional radars include the 96L6 mobile high-altitude detector radar, the 97L6 sophisticated air and missile defense control system, and a 40V6MT universal mobile control tower mast. 


An entirely new generation of anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles was created for the S-500. According to publicly available information, the missile system is equipped with 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 interceptors to defend against spacecraft and satellites. It was operationalized in 2022. MKB Fakel, a subsidiary of Almaz-Antey with over seven decades of experience developing surface-to-air guided missiles, is responsible for its design. Furthermore, the system is equipped with 40N6M anti-aircraft missiles. 

Five S-500 brigade units will be procured and integrated with the A-135 missile defense system, currently operational in central Russia, as part of the state armament program through 2025. A ship-based version of the ground-based S-500 could be developed in the future. 


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