Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin bragged about the capability the S-500 – known as the Prometheus, which he said “will be able to destroy low-orbit satellites and space weapons,” as well as “hypersonic weapons of all modifications”. He added: “The S-500 can be classified as the first generation of space defense systems, since in the future it will be able to destroy low-orbit satellites and space weapons.”
If true, his claim – published in the Red Star newspaper – opens up the possibility of a new theatre of war – in the heavens.
The weapon has a planned range of 370 miles for defending against ballistic missiles and of 310 miles for other targets.
It will be capable of speeds of up to 16,000mph – many times the speed of sound.
As such it will be able to engage hypersonic cruise missiles, spacecraft and other targets travelling faster than Mach 5 (11,509 mph).
The S-500 is being built by the state-owned Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern, and was initially scheduled for delivery in 2025 after preliminary tests in 2020.
However, in February, deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko revealed air defence troops tested the S-500 using “new and unparalleled missiles” last year.
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The first unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was set to go on duty in December 2019, he said, with subsequent reports suggesting it had been deployed for the first time.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Rafaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, commented: “The test of a new hypersonic missile, which Mr Putin boasts in ‘invulnerable’ to western defences, heralds a world that we thought we had consigned to history.
“Moscow feels compelled to demonstrate a sense of global confrontation to enhance national power and to explain at home the imposition of economic sanctions and the vilification of Russia in the international media.
“Moscow sees the current confused order as a prime environment in which to asset its meddlesome influence abroad and build a narrative at home of international power and importance.
“We are able to respond in only a piecemeal fashion and struggle to maintain a unified line for long.
“Previously the clarity of a structured order between the Soviet and western blocs defined who the enemy was and what we would need to do in response to the weapons they were developing.”
The insider added: “Five flights have already been performed.
“The hypersound speed was achieved during the fourth flight.
“The aircraft demonstrated good stability and controllability. Modified systems and equipment are performing normally during the trials.
“Preliminary trials are scheduled for completion in 2020.”