The defense system Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) US is a real threat to the Russian low-altitude spacecraft in the near future


The US global missile defense system will threaten virtually all low Earth orbit spacecraft within the next 10-12 years, Russian experts Alexey Fenenko and Konstantin Sivkov told RIA Novosti.

The experts suggested that one of the solutions to counter the threat is the development of similar systems by Russia.

The US anti-ballistic missile defense (ABM) system is likely to pose a real threat to the Russian low-altitude spacecraft in the near future, experts told RIA Novosti.

They believe it may prompt Russia to begin developing similar systems.

Speaking at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, the Russian General Staff’s Deputy Chief Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir warned that virtually all low Earth orbit space will soon fall within the US global missile defense system’s killing zone.

That means that the space activities of any country, including Russia and China, will be under threat, Gen. Poznikhir highlighted.

Speaking to RIA Novosti, Alexey Fenenko, Associate Professor at Moscow State University’s World Politics Department, emphasized that the US missile defense system will really threaten the Russian orbital grouping of satellites in the next 10-12 years.

“This could become a threat in just 10-12 years, but Russia, unfortunately, has yet to take action; meanwhile China is developing its own anti-satellite weapons, and we will have to do the same,” Fenenko said.

According to Fenenko, the US continues to conduct tests of anti-satellite weapons within the framework of the country’s ABM program.

“The first time they tested it was in 1985; the second test was conducted in 2008. In addition, the US national space strategy of 2006 stressed the necessity of creating weapons able to destroy an adversary’s satellites as part of US missile defense [capabilities],” the Russian academic explained.

He also recalled that within the framework of its Prompt Global Strike project, the US carried out several unsuccessful attempts to test the so-called “space weapon” — low Earth orbit vehicles. However, following a series of unsuccessful tests, Washington has shifted its focus to anti-satellite systems (ASAT).

Russian military expert and First Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies Konstantin Sivkov echoes Fenenko, suggesting that the threat posed by the US missile defense may prompt Moscow to develop a system which would be able to hit US low Earth orbit spacecraft at a distance of thousands of kilometers.

“The Americans have carried out tests of their SM-3 missile, and they have managed to shoot down a satellite. We need to create our own missile systems,” Sivkov told RIA Novosti.

He specified that Russia needs to design systems which would be able to shoot down satellites at a distance of hundreds or thousands of kilometers.

“The S-500 [Prometey anti-ballistic missile system] was designed as a missile defense system for the theater of war; we need a system that would hit satellites in quasi-stationary orbit drifting a few thousand kilometers above the Earth,” Sivkov suggested.

The S-500 “Prometey (Прометей)” (“Prometheus”) is the latest Russian surface-to-air missile (mainly Anti-ballistic missile) system, currently under development by the Almaz-Antey company. It is also known as 55R6M “Triumfator-M”. Prototype testing is expected to begin in 2015. The S-500 is planned to enter service at the end of this decade, possibly in 2017-2018. Russia plans to field ten battalions of S-500 missiles.

The S-500 is a new generation surface-to-air missile system and not an upgraded S-400 or S-300 system.

It is designed for intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles and for air defense against Airborne Early Warning and Control and jamming aircraft.

With a planned range of 600 km (370 mi) for Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) and 400 km (250 mi) for the air defense, the S-500 would be able to detect and simultaneously engage up to 10 ballistic supersonic targets flying at a speed of 5 kilometres per second (3.1 mi/s; 18,000 km/h; 11,000 mph) to a limit of 7 km/s (4.3 mi/s; 25,000 km/h; 16,000 mph). Almaz Antey has already spent six years on the project and they are reporting that the missiles now have an instrumental height of 185 km (115 mi) and a range of 3,500 km (2,200 mi) or more, and is able to intercept ballistic missiles at a height of up to 200 km (120 mi).

The system will have a response time of about three to four seconds, which is considerably shorter than the S-400 which is rated at nine to ten seconds. It also has an extended radar range compared to S-400.
The first development of the S-500 was started in 2009 with first prototype completed in 2012.

In 2011, Almaz-Antey has announced that the first production system of the S-500 will be completed in 2014. In December 2015, the newspaper website Spunik has released that the Russian Armed Forces could receive the first preproduction prototypes of the next-generation S-500 air defense system in 2016.
The S-500 Prometheus is expected to use the following radars: the 91N6A(M) acquisition and battle management radar, the revised 96L6-TsP acquisition radar, and the new 76T6 multimode engagement and 77T6 ABM engagement radars.

The 96L6-TsP Acquisition Radar is a direct derivative of the 96L6-1 series used an a battery acquisition radar in the S-400. Battle management and ABM acquisition will be performed by the 91N6A(M) Big Bird Acquisition and Battle Management Radar, an evolution of the 64N6E series, typically used to support multiple S-300P/S-400 batteries.

Two battery command post types are listed, the 55K6MA which is clearly an evolution of the S-400 55K6E battery command post, and the 85Zh6-2, which may refer to a command post for an extended battery.
The 77P6 Self Propelled Transporter Erector Launcher of S-500 Prometheus appears to be based on the proposed 9A82MK TELAR for the S-300VMK 9M82M Giant missile.

According to the first drawing releases on the Almaz-Antey 2015 Calendar, the S-500 TEL is equipped with two Missile Launch Tube / Transport Container mounted at the rear of the truck chassis.

In firing position, two hydraulic jacks are lowered to the ground on each side of the truck chassis and the missiles containers are placed at the vertical to the rear side.
The S-500 Prometheus uses two new types of missile the 77N6-N and 77N6-N1, the first Russian missiles with inert warheads, which can destroy nuclear warheads by force of impact, i.e., by hitting them with precision at great speed. No explosives are needed: Russian engineers’ estimates show that a collision at a speed of 7km/s would be sure to destroy just about any flying object.
All battery components of the S-500 Prometheus are carried on hardened BZKT BAZ-6909 family vehicles, in 6 x 6, 8 x 8, 10 x 10 configurations.

The BAZ-6909 is a family of all-terrain truck chassis produced and manufactured by the Russian Company Bryansk Motor Vehicle Plant.

This family includes 6×6, 8×8, 10×10 heavy high mobility trucks, prime movers, artillery tractors, with a payload capacity of 13-21 t.

The mobile launcher unit TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) is based on the chassis of BAZ-69096 trucks in 10×10 configuration. The BAZ-6909 can run at a maximum speed of 70 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 500 km.

Some sources report, that the S-500 system can detect ballistic missile at a range of 2 000 km and warheads of ballistic missiles at a range of 1 300 km.

It can defeat ballistic missiles before their warheads re-enter atmosphere.
It has been reported that there is also an S-1000 system being developed in Russia. Possibly it is a modification of the S-500.

Sivkov emphasized that Russia is currently not involved in developing these systems; however, according to the military analyst, the US efforts to bolster its missile defense may force Russia to kick off such a project.

Previously, in his January interview with RIA Novosti, Sivkov drew attention to US Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten’s calls for “deterrence in space.”

Gen. Hyten claimed that “in the not-so-distant future” Moscow and Beijing will be able to threaten US spacecraft.

“We have to prevent that and the best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. So the United States is going to do that, and we’re going to make sure that everybody knows we’re prepared for war,” Hyten said in his speech at Stanford University’s Center for Security and Cooperation.

Stressing that Hyten’s claims bear no relation to reality, Sivkov warned that the Pentagon is about to start a new arms race.

“In fact this is the way to justify the beginning of the large-scale militarization of space by the United States, under the pretext of a Russian or Chinese threat,” the Russian expert stressed.

Ballistic Missile Basics

Ballistic missiles are powered by rockets initially but then follow an unpowered, parabolic trajectory toward their target. They are classified by the maximum distance that they can travel, which is a function of how powerful the missile’s engines (rockets) are and the weight of the missile’s warhead. To add more distance to a missile’s range, rockets are stacked on top of each other in a configuration referred to as staging.

Four classifications of ballistic missiles:

  • Short-range ballistic missiles, traveling less than 1,000 kilometers (approximately 620 miles)
  • Medium-range ballistic missiles, traveling between 1,000–3,000 kilometers (approximately 620-1,860 miles)
  • Intermediate-range ballistic missiles, traveling between 3,000–5,500 kilometers (approximately 1,860-3,410 miles)
  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), traveling more than 5,500 kilometers (approximately 3,410 miles)

Short- and medium-range ballistic missiles are referred to as “theater” ballistic missiles, whereas ICBMs or long-range ballistic missiles are described as “strategic” ballistic missiles. The ABM Treaty had prohibited the development of large-scale, nationwide strategic defenses, but permitted development of theater missile defenses, as well as single-site strategic defenses.

Three stages of flight:

Boost Phase:

  • Begins at launch and lasts until the rocket engines stop firing and pushing the missile away from Earth.
  • Depending on the missile, lasts between three and five minutes.
  • Generally the missile is traveling relatively slowly, although toward the end of this stage an ICBM can reach speeds of more than 24,000 kilometers per hour. Most of this phase takes place in the atmosphere (endoatmospheric).

Midcourse Phase:

  • Begins after the rockets finish firing and the missile is on a ballistic course toward its target.
  • Longest stage of a missile’s flight, lasting up to 20 minutes for ICBMs.
  • During the early part of the midcourse stage, the missile is still ascending toward its apogee, while during the latter part it is descending toward Earth.
  • During this stage the missile’s warhead(s), as well as any decoys, separate from the delivery platform, or “bus.” This phase takes place in space (exoatmospheric).

Terminal phase:

  • Begins when the missile’s warhead re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere (endoatmospheric), and it continues until impact or detonation.
  • This stage takes less than a minute for a strategic warhead, which can be traveling at speeds greater than 3,200 kilometers per hour.


Elements of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System

The following charts provides a brief look at some of the major missile defense programs maintained by the United States. It contains information on what type of ballistic missile each defense would be intended to counter and at which stage of the enemy missile’s flight an attempted intercept would take place. Also included are Pentagon estimates on when each defense may have an initial, rudimentary capability as well as when it could be fully operational.


Program & Key Elements
  • Key element: ground-based missile interceptor consisting of a multistage booster and an exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV).
  • EKV separates from the booster in space and seeks out its target through radar updates and use of its onboard visual and infrared sensors.
  • The EKV destroys its target by colliding with it. This process is referred to as “hit-to-kill” or “kinetic kill.”
Designed to Counter
  • Goal: intercept strategic ballistic missile warheads in midcourse stage.
  • Initially fielded in 2004
  • Over $40 billion has been spent on the GMD system to date.
  • MDA claims that the system has had nine successful intercepts in 17 tests.
  • The newest EKV, called CE-II, failed its first two tests Jan. 31 and Dec. 15, 2010. CE-II had two more recent successful tests: a flight intercept test in June 2014 and a nonintercept flight test in January 2016 (though the LA Times reported that the success of the January 2016 test is disputed).
Capability / Schedule
  • The Pentagon currently deploys 30 interceptors – 26 at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. In March 2013, the Pentagon announced plans to field an additional 14 interceptors at Fort Greely by 2017, bringing the total up to 44.
  • The interceptors are supported by land- and sea-based radars. Early Warning Radar are being upgraded to support the system. Upgrades have been carried out at Beale Air Force Base, California and at Fylingdales, UK. Upgrade work is also underway at Thule Air Force Base, Greenland and is scheduled to take place at Clear, Alaska. The less powerful, west-facing, COBRA Dane radar on Shemya Island, the Aleutian Islands also completed an upgrade in February 2010.
  • MDA is investing in the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), which is intended to enhance the performance of the current EKV. The RKV is expected to be deployed in 2020.
  • In October 2015, MDA awarded Lockheed Martin a $784 million contract to develop, deploy, test, and operate the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR). The LRDR is designed to “provide precision metric data to improve ballistic defense discrimination.” According to Lockheed Martin, the LRDR “combines proven solid-state radar technologies with proven ballistic missile defense algorithms.”
  • In February and April 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed that MDA has not “demonstrated through flight testing that it can defend the U.S. homeland against the current missile defense threat.” GAO also said that MDA is relying on “a highly optimistic, aggressive schedule” to upgrade the system “which has resulted in MDA: (1) accepting a proven risk of undue concurrency; (2) compromising interceptor reliability and extending risk to the warfighter; and (3) risking the efficacy of its planned flight tests in order to maintain schedule-driven deadlines necessary to meet its 2017 fielding deadline.”


Program & Key Elements
  • The Navy’s component of the missile defense system and central to the defense footprint in Asia and the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe. A sea-based system, with missile launchers and radars mounted on cruisers and destroyers. Adaptable to land systems.
  • Key elements of the sea-based defense system: ship-based missile (Standard Missile- 3, or SM-3) and the Aegis combat system.
  • The SM-3 is a hit-to-kill missile comprised of a three-stage booster with a kill vehicle. There are three variations of the SM-3 missile: Block IA, Block IB, and Block IIA. Each variation will be deployed in different phases.
Designed to Counter
  • Geared toward defending against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase with an emphasis on the ascent stage.
  • In 2005 the role of Aegis missile defense evolved from that of a forward sensor to include engagement capability.
  • MDA claims that the SM-3 has a test record of 33 intercepts in 40 attempts which were carried out in 37 flight tests (some of the tests were double tests.) The most recent test was conducted on Dec. 9, 2015, and was declared a success.
  • Japan’s KONGO Class Destroyers have been upgraded with BMD capabilities. Japan and the United States are co-developing the SM-3 block IIA.
Capability / Schedule
  • As of January 2015, there are 33 Aegis BMD ships – 5 cruisers, 28 destroyers.
  • Of the 33 ships, 16 are assigned to the Pacific Fleet and 17 to the Atlantic Fleet.
  • A land based SM-3 block IB deployments occurred in Romania in 2016, the same year ground was broken in Poland on a site to house land based SM-3 IIAs by 2018.

Program & Key Elements
  • Main components: missile comprised of a single rocket booster with a separating kill-vehicle that seeks out its target with the help of a THAAD radar.
  • The THAAD kill vehicle is hit-to-kill.
  • THADD batteries have four components: launcher, interceptors, radar, and fire control. Each battery can carry around 72 interceptors (there are eight interceptors per launcher and typically each battery is believed to contain nine launch vehicles).
  • THAAD missiles are fired from a truck-mounted launcher.
Designed to Counter
  • THAAD’s mission is to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles at the end of their midcourse stage and in the terminal stage.
  • Intercepts could take place inside or outside the atmosphere.
  • THAAD has been tested successfully 13 times since 2006. Four other THAAD tests have been classed as “no-tests.” (Note: A “no-test” occurs when the target malfunctions after launch so the interceptor is not launched.)
Capability / Schedule
  • The first five THAAD batteries have been made available to the Army for use. MDA plans to produce seven batteries, seven radars, and 539 interceptors.
  • Production of the first interceptors began in March 2011. As the end of FY 2015, 101 of the 539 interceptors had been delivered.
  • MDA is exploring development of an upgraded version of THAAD known as THAAD extended range, which is designed to counter ultrafast gliding weapons. China, for example, has tested such weapons that travel at Mach 10 speeds.
  • The U.S. and South Korea decided in July 2016 to deploy a THAAD battery in South Korea to counter North Korean threats despite strong objections from China.
  • A THAAD battery was deployed to Guam in 2013 to counter potential North Korea IRBM threats to the island and U.S. military assets there. However, THAAD has yet to be tested against an IRBM-class target. A test against an IRBM has been delayed to FY 2017 at the earliest.

Program & Key Elements
  • PAC-3 consists of a one-piece, hit-to-kill missile interceptor fired from a mobile launching station, which can carry 16 PAC-3 missiles.
  • The missile is guided by an independent radar that sends its tracking data to the missile through a mobile engagement control station.
  • A blast fragmentation kills the target.
Designed to Counter
  • PAC-3 is designed to defend against short– and medium-range ballistic missiles in their terminal stage at lower altitudes than the THAAD system.
  • PAC-3s destroyed two Iraqi short-range ballistic missiles during the 2003 conflict and shot down a U.S. fighter jet. Earlier Patriot models also deployed to the region shot down nine Iraqi missiles and a British combat aircraft.
Capability / Schedule
  • PAC-3 is now considered operational and has been deployed to several countries including the Bahrain, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and the UAE.
  • Starting in January 2013, NATO has provided five PATRIOT batteries to Turkey to increase its air defenses.
  • As of 2015, 1,280 Patriot launchers have been produced and the U.S. stocks around 1,100 launchers.

Program Elements
  • Key Elements: 1) geosynchronous (GEO) satellites orbiting the earth; 2) sensors on host satellites in highly elliptical earth orbit (HEO).
Dates Operational
  • Primary objective is to provide early warning of theater and strategic missile launches.
  • Provides data for technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.
  • Currently there are three SBIRS sensors mounted on host satellites in highly elliptical orbit (HEO-1, HEO-2, and HEO-3).
  • Two GEO satellites in orbit. Launch dates: May 7, 2011, and March 19, 2013.
  • The program is projected to cost $19 billion – four times its initial estimates.
Major Issues
  • The first sensor in highly elliptical orbit—HEO-1—was certified for operations by U.S. Strategic Command in December 2008. HEO-2 and HEO-3 are both operational, and HEO-4 has been shipped.
  • GEO-4 is scheduled to launch sometime in 2016 (but has not as of July 2016) while GEO-3 will launch no earlier than September 2017.
  • Lockheed Martin is under contract to produce GEO-5 and GEO-6.


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