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Experts assess S-500 export prospects

The United States does not abandon attempts to disrupt the Turkish deal to buy Russian S-400 air defense missile launchers. It even advanced an ultimatum, but Turkey is unlikely to cede. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently said he would like to procure the prospective Russian S-500 weapons. It was the first statement about the intention to buy the latest Russian arms. The Izvestia daily writes whether S-500 will be as successful on the global market as its predecessors.

Experts assess S 500 export prospects
S-500 characteristics are unknown so far. The available information claims it can be used against satellites and missiles (Picture source: Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

When S-500 is discussed, it is to be remembered it has not yet been accepted into service in Russia. It will be possible to discuss export potential when serial procurement begins.

The new weapon is more expensive than S-400 and the range of potential buyers will be smaller. It is clear that CIS countries should be excluded because of the price, as well as Greece which acquired S-300. It will hardly find the money and NATO would not allow buying the weapon. Besides, Russia will not sell S-500 to anyone because of potential technology leaks.

Turkey is a new bidder for the latest Russian air defense missile launchers. Ankara even offered to launch joint S-500 production with Russia. It means the ultimatum from Washington does not work and the disruption of the S-400 deal is unlikely. Besides, it is not in the US interests to blackmail Ankara by threats to deny it F-35.

Under which terms can Turkey buy Russian S-500? It mostly depends on when the weapon is ready for sale and the bilateral political climate. The second question is the price and delivery terms. A half of the S-400 deal is financed by a Russian loan. Turkey is likely to insist on a loan in the S-500 deal as well. Much will depend on the economic situation in Turkey and Russia and the ability to repay S-400 loan. Anyway, if S-500 is offered for export, Turkey is unlikely to encounter major problems.

China may be interested in S-500, but will not buy them in major volumes. It can afford 2-3 billion dollars to obtain and study the weapon. S-500 is necessary to defend political and military centers.

Gulf countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar can also become buyers of Russian S-500 with time. The first two may need it to defend from Iran, while Qatar often buys expensive weapons for political gambling rather than defense. Theoretically, Egypt may also buy the weapon. Much will depend on diplomatic negotiations.

Algeria bought S-300 and may eye S-500. But the country is at crossroads and people may come to power who are not oriented towards Russia.

Iran is also a hypothetical buyer of Russian air defense. But upcoming developments and prospects of arms trade are unclear. Tehran should be interested in S-500, but has to find the money. It is also unclear whether new restrictions can be imposed by the United Nations or Russia itself.

S-500 characteristics are unknown so far. The available information claims it can be used against satellites and missiles. The ability to fight missiles is of interest for potential buyers. But there is a problem for them.

S-500 is very vulnerable. It must be an element of multilayered air and missile shield. To obtain S-500 it is necessary to have S-400, S-300, Buk, Tor, Pantsir-S air defense weapons. If unprotected by short and medium-range air defense, S-500 can be easily destroyed by relatively simple weapons, the Izvestia writes.

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