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​S-500 Prometheus Deployed in Crimea: Capabilities of the 77N6-N/1 Missile Claimed to Counter ATACMS Missiles

S-500 Prometheus TEL / Open-source illustrative photo
S-500 Prometheus TEL / Open-source illustrative photo
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S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems proved to be completely ineffective against Ukraine's ATACMS ballistic missile strikes, so the russians are trying to turn the tides with the newest S-500

Chief of Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, stated June 12th that russian invasion forces have already placed elements of their latest S-500 air defense missile system in Crimea, southern Ukraine. Talking to journalists live at the United News telethon, he said: "This will be a rather experimental application. But they have already appeared there," referring to the mentioned components of S-500.

This move on the russian side was "quite expected" since the Kremlin has focused its effort on bolstering air defenses on the occupied peninsula. Especially considering the recent losses in air defense systems destroyed by Ukrainian air attacks with long-range ATACMS ballistic missiles.

Read more: ​What Known About russia's New Prometheus S-500 SAM System?
Defense Express / S-500 Prometheus Deployed in Crimea: Capabilities of the 77N6-N/1 Missile Claimed to Counter ATACMS Missiles
A russian S-400 SAM system destroyed in Donetsk Region of Ukraine, May 2024 / Screenshot credit: Dosye Shpiona on Telegram

A brief reminder, just over the first three days of this week, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported two attacks on the positions of russian S-300 and S-400 in Crimea, on the night of June 10 and 12, respectively. The first attack destroyed a 48Ya6-K1 Podlet radar station and a 5N63S command post with the 30N6 target illumination radar, as indicated by satellite images released afterward. The results of the second strike are still being clarified.

Methodical and effective ATACMS strikes force the russians to play another trump card in their arsenal, the S-500 Prometheus. Early 2024, after a test performed on this air defense system, russian media reported that the S-500 had confirmed the ability to shoot down ballistic missiles and hypersonic threats. The capability was attributed to the powerful radars, a potent ballistic computer, and highly maneuverable interceptors.

S-500 Prometheus TEL / Defense Express / S-500 Prometheus Deployed in Crimea: Capabilities of the 77N6-N/1 Missile Claimed to Counter ATACMS Missiles
S-500 Prometheus TEL / Open-source illustrative photo

Previously, Defense Express analyzed in detail what the S-500 air defense system is and what it's really capable of, so this time let's focus on the main question: is this system's special 77N6-N/1 counter-ballistic interceptor able to neutralize an ATACMS?

In essence, the 77N6-N/1 is an improved version of the 9M82 missile from the S-300V air defense system, it has a declared range of 500–600 km varying from source to source, even though the real figure might be lower.

Regardless, the main issue is the action of this missile: the 77N6-N/1 doesn't feature the hit-to-kill capability successfully employed by such anti-missile weapons as Patriot, THAAD, or SAMP/T. Instead, the russian interceptor relies on proximity blast hoping the fragmentation will damage the incoming ballistic missile enough to explode.

In terms of capability, it is comparable to the PAC-2 family of missiles for Patriot. Back in the 1990s, it was believed that proximity blast could be effective enough against ballistic threats but ultimately recognized as practically useless against this type of target.

S-500
S-500 "Prometheus" launcher and the 77N6-N effector / Open-source illustrative image

This, in turn, pushed the Americans to develop and implement an expensive program resulting in the creation of so-called kinetic interceptors, featuring the technology known colloquially as "hit-to-kill," and the introduction of the PAC-3 missile. The investment proved worthy ever since it took down the first and subsequent russian Kh-47 Kinzhal air-launched "hypersonic" ballistic missiles.

Therefore, it is unlikely that the S-500 Prometheus with missiles without the hit-to-kill feature can become a game changer that will shield russian air defenses and crucial military facilities from the threat of an ATACMS strike on Crimea. However, given the upgraded interceptor and system components, it may prove more effective than the helpless S-300/400 systems currently deployed there.

Read more: ATACMS Methodically Destroys russian Air Defense in Crimea: General Staff Announces Another Strike on S-300 and S-400