Following its reported entry into service in September after well over a decade in development, the Russian S-500 long range surface to air missile system was tested in the Arctic region according to reports from multiple state media outlets. “Routine tests of S-500 anti-missile defence systems have recently been held in the Arctic. The launch of the system’s long-range missile was aimed against a hypersonic target, the target was successfully eliminated. Further tests of the S-500 will be held,” a source told the state run Sputnik News, although further details on the system were not forthcoming. The source did add, however, that tests of the S-550 system have yet to begin as prototypes are still under development. The S-550 was first announced in November, and is thought to be a derivative of the S-500 more specialised in ballistic missile defence. Both systems are expected to serve alongside the upcoming A-235 to provide a new generation of anti ballistic missile capabilities, and will be more widely deployed with the A-235 expected to only defend Moscow. Other systems including all currently serving variants of the S-300 have the ability to neutralise strategic ballistic missiles, although they are much more limited in the ranges at which they can do so.
Aside from ballistic missile defence the S-500 is capable of engaging a wide range of targets at extreme ranges including cruise missiles, all manner of aircraft, as well as satellites and space planes. While the preceding S-400 system which entered service from 2007 is capable of intercepting hypersonic missiles at over Mach 8, as demonstrated in exercises both domestically and with export clients, the S-500 is expected to be able to intercept targets at well over Mach 10. The system’s specifications are thought to have been made more ambitious during development leading to delays, which may have been in response to emerging threats from upcoming American weapons systems including space aircraft and B-21 stealth bombers. The S-500’s deployment to the Arctic follows the deployment of the S-400 and other high end assets such as MiG-31BM Foxhound interceptors, although it remains uncertain whether this is part of a long term deployment or whether the system used in the test firing was even a serial production model. It comes amid a broader trend towards the Arctic being a priority area for deployment of the new weapons systems alongside the Western Military District which faces the bulk of NATO forces.