How Good is Russia’s New Missile Interceptor?

May 5, 2021 Topic: Missile Defense Region: Eurasia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaICBMMissile DefenseMilitary

How Good is Russia’s New Missile Interceptor?

What kind of interceptor is the new Russian weapon? Having an idea would give the Pentagon a much sought-after advantage.


The Russian Defense Ministry has announced the existence of a new interceptor, or missile defense technology. It is apparently intended to challenge U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and countermeasures in new and potentially unprecedented ways. 

“Russia’s Aerospace Force has successfully test-launched a new interceptor missile of the country’s anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense system. The Aerospace Force’s air and anti-ballistic missile defense troops conducted another successful test-launch of a new missile, which is part of the Russian anti-ballistic missile defense system at the Sary-Shagan proving ground (the Republic of Kazakhstan),” the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.  


Much less seems to be known or written about the interceptor when it comes to Russian nuclear missile defenses and their level of technical maturity and sophistication. What kind of interceptor is the new Russian weapon? Having an idea would give the Pentagon a much sought-after advantage.

For instance, does the Russian interceptor deploy with advanced discriminating capability? Meaning, does it have a seeker or integrated command and control sensor system to quickly and accurately discern the difference between a countermeasure or decoy and an actual ICBM? An ability to distinguish an actual warhead or weapon from within the debris, clutter, or intended mix of countermeasures, is at an utmost premium when it comes to the challenge of tracking and stopping an attack. 

Could it be some kind of interceptor armed with a multiple kill vehicle able to simultaneously track approaching threats, share data in real-time, and make nearly immediate adjustments depending upon target specifics? The most significant question about any new Russian interceptor, in addition to the potential sophistication of its seeker technology, may reside in the issue of whether the new weapon is a single “kill vehicle” or potentially a multiple kill vehicle interceptor. Interestingly, the U.S. Missile Defense Agencies’ request for its new and now underway Next-Generation Interceptor technology specifies that the new interceptor may need multiple kill vehicle options to counter the fast-growing complexity of expected Russian decoys and countermeasures

Multiple kill vehicles introduce a decided advantage because they can enable more than one intercept shot, something which could prove quite significant given the number of advanced decoys and countermeasures. However, is any kind of new Russian seeker or sensor able to make fast determinations and identification truly require several different kill vehicles on a single system? It may, at very least, prove to be a worthy experiment given the rapid influx of new countermeasures intended to subvert, confuse, jam, or divert interceptors, therefore increasing the likelihood that an ICBM will continue through to its target. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters