Russia prepares to accept S-500 and Nudol air defense systems into service

Russia is preparing to accept into service air and missile defense weapons S-500 Prometei and Nudol air defense systems. They will increase the effectiveness of the aerospace defense. The weapons will become operational not earlier than in 2021, online publication writes quoting defense industry sources.
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S-500 air defense system (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Trials of S-500 and Nudol encounter objective difficulties, as most of the tests of such weapons in the Soviet Union were held at ranges which are now in neighboring countries, a source said. "There is no proper range in Russia for trials of missile defense weapons. The available ranges have several restrictions for trials of long-range air defense and missile defense systems," he said.

Russia is developing a network of ranges inside the country, but it is a long and costly job. The acceptance time of Nudol is affected by some technical problems. S-500 supplies are delayed because of imperfect ranges. "The task to test the weapon in near space with corresponding targets has yet to be fulfilled. There are no technical problems with S-500. However, 2021 is an excessively optimistic deadline for the acceptance of both weapons into service," the source said.

S-500 Prometei (55R6M, Triumfator-M class) was designed by Almaz-Antey as a new generation of air and missile defense weapons. S-500 operates a separate method of ballistic and aerodynamic target destruction. Almaz-Antey Chief Designer Pavel Sozinov said "S-500 is not just a repetition of previous generations in a new technical and technological edition. S-500 is a fifth-generation system which will also ensure missile defense. We work to exceed the achievements which the Americans have implemented in THAAD mobile missile defense launchers. S-500 has to increase air defense capabilities. It will have a completely different construction against S-400, as well as new radars and computers and new guided antiaircraft missiles," he said.

S-500 basic operational regimes will be automatic according to the global trend, he added. The operator can interfere, but the main regime of all S-500 means and the whole system is automatic. It helps repel an attack of modern aerospace weapons in case of massive raids and in jamming conditions.

Technological support is important. S-500 is a big scientific and technological program, rather than a design with ready-made elements. "It is clear that an advanced technological platform is necessary to produce unique characteristics of mobile air and missile defense. We do have it," the designer general said.

S-500 comprises 85Zh6-1 combat control post, 60K6 long-range radar, an air defense module with 55K6MA command post, 91N6AM radar, 51P6M launchers, 40N6M guided antiaircraft missiles, a missile defense module with 85Zh6-2 combat post, 76T6 and 77T6 radars with active phased antenna array, 77P6 launchers, 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 antimissiles designed by Fakel Bureau.

As for Nudol anti-ballistic missile system, it can fire at targets in the near space and the anti-missiles are armed with nuclear and conventional warheads. The final stage of Nudol antimissile is likely to be a kinetic interceptor. Nudol is a classical duel option of long-range missile defense. There are grounds to believe that the technical assignment included three requirements.

Firstly, the new weapon has to engage in a non-nuclear interception, as anti-missiles were previously designed for nuclear warheads which decreased the engagement field. The use of a nuclear missile actually means nuclear war.

Secondly, the weapon has to be mobile. Nudol has to be transportable for deployment in the theater of warfare and is likely carried by multi-axis wheeled transporters.

Thirdly, it has to intercept ballistic targets or spacecraft at an altitude of 500-750 km and a distance of at least 700-800 km, i.e. in the near space. In other words, Nudol has to destroy low-orbit spacecraft.

Open sources said test launches of Nudol have been held since 2014 in Plesetsk spaceport in Arkhangelsk region.

The antimissile of Nudol is clearly two-stage and solid-fuel. Russia is designing new high-power mixtures of solid fuel. The missile will be popped up from the launch container by a powder pressure battery. The first-stage solid-fuel engine will then start up followed by the second stage. The warhead will be guided at the final stage by solid-fuel or liquid-fuel engines on each side. The launch weight of the antimissile is close to 10 tons. Nudol has much better characteristics than A-135 Amur system. The designers said it is a new weapon with a new element base and inspiring characteristics.

The deployment of a full early warning system with a space echelon and the acceptance of Nudol into service will make Russia regain the positions it lost in the 1990s. Moscow will be able to control the space in all directions and engage in a counter-satellite fight in the near space.

Nudol (14Ts033) system likely includes 14P078 command and computing post, multirole guidance radar, 14P222 launcher with 14A042 missiles in transportation-launch containers, communication and technical servicing means for the missiles, said.

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