In its third year since initiating what it dubiously termed “special military operations” in Ukraine, Russia has been flexing its military muscle with an ostentatious display of formidable weaponry. From cutting-edge fighter jets to missiles boasting hypersonic capabilities, the Kremlin has reaffirmed its status as among the top-dog superpowers on the global stage.

And, in the ever-changing landscape of global military technology, Russia’s S-500 Prometheus (55R6M “Triumfator-M”) represents a significant advancement in surface-to-air missile and anti-ballistic missile defense systems.

Developed by the Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern in the late 2000s, the S-500 system is designed to bolster the existing capabilities of its predecessors, the S-400 and the A-235 systems, providing a more advanced layer of defense against a myriad of aerial threats, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), hypersonic cruise missiles, and aircraft.

Advancing Aerial Defense: The S-500’s Path from Conception to Deployment

The journey of the S-500 from conception to deployment has been a testament to Russia’s commitment to enhancing its aerial defense capabilities.

The S-500’s development began in 2009, with the first prototype finished in 2012. Its initial production plan was in 2014, with the first unit officially entering service with the 15th Russian Air Army in 2021, marking a significant milestone in the program’s development.

Despite its designation, the relationship between the S-500 and the earlier S-500U project of the late 1960s remains ambiguous, underlining the unique path of development the current system has undertaken.

The Legacy and Evolution of the S-500

Originally, Russia aimed to equip its Aerospace Defense (VKO) with ten S-500 battalions under the State Armament Programme 2020 (GPV-2020).

Integrating the S-500 with the S-400 systems was envisioned to replace the older S-300 missile systems, enhancing the defensive coverage around strategic areas such as Moscow oblast and the country’s central region.