What's behind Putin's 'unpreventable strike' gambit & Russia's new S-500 missile defence system

Putin said Russia had secured its place among the world's leading naval powers, including by developing "the latest hypersonic precision weapons still unrivalled in the world".

Russia's S-500 defence system

Russia released what is thought to be the first footage of its advanced new S-500 surface-to-air missile system in action, a weapon it hopes will beef up its own defences and one day become an export best seller.

Its predecessor, the S-400 system, has become a source of geopolitical tension with the United States actively discouraging countries to buy it, and, in the case of Turkey, unsuccessfully trying to persuade Ankara to return it.

Footage released by the defence ministry showed the giant truck-based system's launch tubes firing a missile at high speed into the sky at a testing ground in southern Russia.

Russia's state RIA news agency said it was the first time that the defence ministry had shown the S-500 system undergoing a live-fire test.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Prometheus capable of destroying ballistic and cruise missiles

Parts of the footage had been deliberately blurred or obscured to make it harder to examine the system in detail.

The ministry said the missile had successfully hit a "high-speed ballistic target".

"The S-500 anti-aircraft missile system has no analogues in the world and is designed to defeat the entire spectrum of existing and promising aerospace attack weapons of a potential enemy in the entire range of altitudes and speeds," the ministry said in a statement.

"Once the full test cycle is complete, the equipment plans provide for the delivery of the first S-500 system to the air defence and missile defence unit near Moscow," it said, without specifying a time frame.

The S-500 system, called Prometheus, is capable of destroying ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as planes and helicopters, and has an interception radius of around 600 km (373 miles), RIA reported.

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S-500 slated for delivery by 2025

Citing deputy defence minister Alexei Krivoruchko last year, RIA said the S-500 system was slated for delivery by 2025, with state contracts due to be signed this year.

Tuesday's launch took place in the southern Astrakhan region at the Kapustin Yar training range, the defence ministry said.

The test comes a day after Russia tested a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Russian navy

The Russian navy can detect any enemy and launch an "unpreventable strike" if needed, President Vladimir Putin said just weeks after a UK warship angered Moscow by passing the Crimea peninsula.

"We are capable of detecting any underwater, above-water, airborne enemy and, if required, carry out an unpreventable strike against it," Putin said speaking at a navy day parade in St Petersburg.

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Row in the Black Sea

Putin's words follow an incident in the Black Sea in June when Russia said it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a British warship to chase it out of Crimea waters.

Britain rejected Russia's account of the incident, saying it believed any shots fired were a pre-announced Russian "gunnery exercise", and that no bombs had been dropped.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 but Britain and most of the world recognise the Black Sea peninsula as part of Ukraine, not Russia.

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Russia's Black Sea fleet

Moscow had called for the Sea Breeze exercise to be cancelled before it began, and the Russian defence ministry has said it will react to safeguard national security if necessary.

Russia's Black Sea fleet said in a statement on Thursday carried by the Interfax news agency that the crews of two large landing ships had fired at sea and air targets in the Black Sea.

The drill came two days after Russia tested its air defence systems in Crimea.

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'We can detect underwater, surface or aerial enemies'

The Russian leader's boast comes days after military officials announced tests of advanced new weapons, some of which come from an arsenal Putin has described as "invincible."

"The Russian navy today has everything it needs to guarantee the protection of our country and our national interests," he said.

"We can detect underwater, surface or aerial enemies and target them if a lethal strike is necessary," Putin said according to a broadcast on state television.

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Latest hypersonic precision weapons

The Russian leader was speaking on the sidelines of an annual parade of military vessels, flanked by naval officers in white, and also Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

Putin said Russia had secured its place among the world's leading naval powers, including by developing "the latest hypersonic precision weapons still unrivalled in the world".

The United States, China, France and other major powers have announced plans to develop their own hypersonic weapons and are expected to soon catch up.

With the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world and a huge cache of ballistic missiles, Russia already has more than enough military capacity to deter its enemies.

(Photograph:AFP)

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