Russian S-400 'Growler' anti-missile systems
Russian S-400 'Growler' anti-missile systemsReuters

The first prototypes of Russia's next-generation S-500 long range air defense system will reach completion and begin pre-tests in 2016, according to state-run Sputnik News.

The new generation system will be capable of destroying aerial offensive targets, as well intercontinental ballistic missiles and targets near space.

The S-500 "not only combines the best feats of the previous systems, but also offers completely new possibilities in the field of air, missile and space defense," according to Viktor Murakhovski, a member of the advisory council of Russia's Military-Industrial Commission.

The long-range system, manufactured by Moscow-based defense firm Almaz Antey, will have a range of 600 kilometers (more than 370 miles) and could simultaneously intercept up to ten ballistic warheads flying at speeds of up to 23 thousand feet per second. Its missiles will be able to change their trajectory in midflight and may be able to strike targets as high as 115 miles.

By comparison, the S-400 anti-missile system, known to NATO as the SA-21 "Growler," is said to have a maximum range of 250 miles, and can bring down airplanes at up to 90,000 feet (17 miles).

The new system is also being designed to destroy hypersonic cruise missiles and other aerial targets at speeds of higher than Mach 5, as well as spacecraft.

Deputy Commander Russia's Air Defense, Lieutenant-General Sergei Razygraev, has said that the S-500's ability to shoot down missiles in near space will turn it into an element of strategic missile defense.

According to The National Interest, is not clear if the new weapon – which is referred to as both the S-500 Prometey and as the 55R6M Triumfator-M – is an upgraded variant of powerful S-400 that Russia recently deployed to Syria or a "clean sheet" design. Either way, it is expected to pose an even greater threat to allied air power than its predecessors, and to be networked with their S-400 and S-300 predecessors as part of an overall integrated air defense.

Russia's decision to deploy the S-400 system to its base in Latakia, in western Syria, where it is propping us Bashar al-Assad's regime, came after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 fighter jet in November near the Turkish-Syrian border, killing one pilot.