Or a paper tiger?
Against ballistic missile threats—and apparently with a secondary capability against air targets—the S-500 uses the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 kinetic kill missiles. The missiles are capable of hitting their targets at 7 kilometers per second, which the Russians expect would be sufficient to destroy any incoming aerial target including satellites. It apparently has the capability to engage targets as high as 124 miles—or 200 km or 656,000 feet— at ranges of 324 nautical miles or 600km. It can engage as many as 10 incoming ballistic missiles simultaneously and has a response of less than 4 seconds.
Russia’s fearsome new S-500 air and missile defense system has apparently entered production—and is setting new records for missile engagement range.
The next generation weapon is designed to supplement Moscow’s already potent S-400 and replace the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. Not only does the weapon have unprecedented capability to hit high altitude targets—including ballistic missiles and satellites—at extremely long ranges, there have been some claims—usually from the media—that the system could target stealth aircraft. However, while some analysts believe that might be theoretically possible, there has been nothing to substantiate that claim.
What is definitively known about the S-500 is that it is of very high priority to Russian president Vladimir Putin and that it presented publicly as primarily a high-altitude defense system. “It is necessary to develop and build up technological groundwork in the area of air defense, to continue modernization of Pantsir systems, to finish the development and preparations for mass production of the S-500 newest systems capable of hitting targets at super-high altitudes, including near-the-earth space,” Putin said in May.