Russia has deployed a new Star Wars-like missile system that has the capability to strike satellites and shoot down nuclear-armed rockets, state media reports.
The S-550 defense system has successfully completed trials and “entered combat duty,” Tass reported Tuesday, citing a source inside the Russian defense ministry.
The official called the defense system “absolutely new and unrivaled” and capable of “hitting spacecraft, ballistic missile reentry vehicles and hypersonic targets at altitudes of tens of thousands of kilometers.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last month at defense industry meetings in Sochi that President Vladimir Putin had emphasized the need to deliver the S-550 system to Russian troops, the report said.
The S-550 becomes part of Russia’s strategic air defense structure, along with the long-range S-350, S-400 and S-500 systems.
The announcement of the new weapon comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s buildup of military equipment and thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.
Putin has demanded that the US and its European allies provide security guarantees that they will not allow Ukraine to become a member of NATO and will not deploy forces or missiles in the former Soviet republic.
Talks between American and Russian officials have been set for Jan. 10 in Geneva.
Russia last month test-fired a missile that destroyed one of its satellites, creating a debris field that endangered astronauts on the International Space Station.
It’s unclear whether the missile fired was a S-550.
A military expert told Tass that the new Russian missile system uses the kinetic energy interceptor principle to avoid a nuclear detonation when hitting a nuclear warhead.
Dmitry Litovkin told the outlet that the interceptor allows the missile to “physically destroy the warhead and prevent nuclear blasts.”
“In the case that a warhead is destroyed, its fragments will create a radioactive background, albeit to a lesser degree compared to a shell explosion,” he said.
Kinetic interceptors are designed to hit a target at high velocity in order to destroy it and do not contain an explosive warhead.