The Pentagon said Tuesday that Russia and China are both developing advanced and “increasingly capable” air defense systems in their arms race against the United States.
''China and Russia are developing increasingly capable and numerous missile defense systems, and integrating them into their defense strategies as they compete with the United States,'' a Department of Defense official said.
Russia is building the S-500 system, dubbed “Space Defense System,” thanks to its ability to destroy satellites and hypersonic weapons in low orbit space. “Designed to intercept short- to medium-range threats, they say the S-500 system will defend against ballistic, cruise and hypersonic missiles. The system's initial operating capability is set for some time in 2025,” the Pentagon said.
Soviet Union created a ring of anti-ballistic missile batteries around Moscow during the Cold War. These nuclear-tipped missiles still exist as part of Russia's A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. The system consists of 68 nuclear-armed interceptors. As part of President Vladimir Putin's military buildup, the system has received new radars and updated electronics. “The beauty of this system is that the Russians have only to be close to an incoming threat. The downside is radiation from an intercept would contaminate thousands of acres of countryside,” the release said.
Unlike Russia, the U.S. uses non-nuclear ''kinetic kill'' vehicles, which destroy incoming warheads using their speed and mass to collide with the threat.
DoD officials added that although China is heavily dependent on Russia in this sector presently, they have been investing in building their own missile systems. “The other main threat comes from the People’s Republic of China. Right now, the Chinese are heavily dependent on Russian missile defense capabilities. The Chinese have invested in the Russian S-300 and S-400 systems – missile defense capabilities. The Chinese are assiduously studying the problem and have invested in research to build their own capabilities,” the officials said.
This includes the HQ-19 missile defense system, which could be used against incoming, medium-range ballistic missiles. Initial operating capability is set for next year.
China is also developing a mid-course interceptor. The Chinese government said they tested that capability in February 2018. U.S. officials say initial operating capability is not likely until the late-2020s. They anticipate it would have good capability against intermediate-range ballistic missiles and could be adapted to target intercontinental s and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.