Given the S-500’s advanced networking capabilities, some military analysts have suggested that the Russians might genuinely be able to engage stealth aircraft. Indeed, by networking multiple high-speed long wave radars such as the RLS Voronezh-DM and 1L119 Nebo SVU, it might be possible to generate a weapons quality track on an aircraft such as the F-22 or F-35. Sensor fusion has afforded militaries many capabilities that are greater than the sum of their part. This many be one such case.
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.
While not all aspects of the S-500’s capabilities have been known to have been demonstrated by the West, there is little reason to doubt the capabilities of Russian air defense systems. Indeed, according to U.S. defense sources, Moscow recently conducted a record-breaking test of the S-500 system at ranges that were previously thought to be impossible. According to a CNBC report citing U.S. intelligence officials, “the S-500 surface-to-air missile system successfully struck a target 299 miles away, which the U.S. assessed is 50 miles further than any known test.”