S-550: Should NATO and America Fear Russia's New Missile Defense System?
Russian officials are trying to sell the world on the S-550.
Russia is developing a new missile defense system, according to top officials.
Citing several sources within Russia’s defense industry, news outlet RIA reported earlier this month that Moscow is developing a new missile defense system that specializes in intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles and space-based threats. “Its capabilities include the interception of ballistic missiles at various ranges, primarily intercontinental ones, and [the neutralization of] space strike weapons orders of magnitude more effectively than the S-400 and S-500, and the American THAAD and Aegis systems with SM-3 block IIA missiles,” a defense industry source told RIA.
The existence of the S-550 was confirmed on November 9 by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. “The head of state placed special emphasis on the importance of advancing the development of domestic air and missile defense systems, and the supply of S-350, S-500 and S-550 to the Armed Forces,” Shoigu said at a Defense Ministry conference while describing a recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s top military brass. The Defense Ministry did not provide any details concerning the S-550’s specifications.
News of the S-550 follows earlier reports that the first S-500 Prometheus missile defense systems have entered service in the region. Military expert Dmitry Litovkin speculated that the S-550 could be a successor to the Soviet and Russian A-135, which NATO refers to as Gorgon, and A-235 Nudol anti-ballistic missile and anti-satellite systems, further suggesting that the upcoming system may be a specialized S-500 variant. “Nothing is known about the S-550 but I presume that it will become an extra element of the Prometei system,” Litovkin said. “It was earlier announced that this system would be able to shoot down both ballistic nuclear warheads and low-orbit satellites. Judging by everything, the military has made a decision to divide these functions between the two systems.”
Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of Russian defense-industrial giant Rostec, told reporters on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow that the S-550 will boast extended target detection and missile ranges: “This is work that never stops and will carry on being implemented to boost the detection range and the missile range with the capability of intercepting any target. That’s the focus of the work on the S-550.’’ It is unclear if Chemezov was referring to the S-550’s performance gains relative to the new S-500 missile defense system, or to the older S-400 missile system.
Russia’s armed could receive the first S-550 shipment by 2025.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.