Russia's Military Rolls Out New 'Cruise Missile Killer' Weapons System

Moscow's military has received its latest anti-air system and tested its ability to take on incoming aircraft at a time when Russia and the United States were competing for cutting-edge warfighting capabilities.

Russia's aerospace forces commissioned the new S-350 Vityaz surface-to-air missile system on Wednesday. The system was delivered to the Air and Space Defenсe Academy in the Leningrad region and underwent training "to detect and destroy a mock air enemy."

"The S-350 combat crew demonstrated their skills, hit a mock enemy with electronic missile launches, and marched to a new position area," the Russian Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in a press release.

The weapon was described as having been "designed to protect the most important state, administrative, industrial, military facilities and groupings of troops from attacks by modern and promising means of air attack of the enemy." It's designed to defend against both aircraft and missiles.

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Russian military S-350 Vityaz launchers are seen in this photo shared February 26. The weapon was dubbed "cruise missile killer" due to its versatile capabilities. Russian Ministry of Defense

The S-350 joins a decades-old family of defense systems that include the S-200, S-300, S-400 and the S-500, which remains under development. The new weapon's state-owned manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, said the weapon can operate both alone and as part of a multi-layered defense system.

The company bills maximum altitude engagement range as either just over six, 37 or 74.5 miles depending on which missiles it's equipped with. The weapon can be fitted with up to a dozen missiles at once and was dubbed a "cruise missile killer" by Russian aerospace forces surface-to-air missile troops commander Colonel Yuri Muravkin in an interview with the military's official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper in July.

The name stuck and has been incorporated into some of Almaz-Antey's press releases. The S-350 was first transferred to the Russian Defense Ministry in December and was tested last month at the Kapustin Yar training ground in the Astrakhan region.

The latest addition to Russia's defensive arsenal came as the Pentagon began developing missiles banned for more than 30 years under a bilateral deal with Moscow. Since leaving the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August, the U.S. military has conducted two tests, once a Tomahawk cruise missile and the other a ballistic missile, that flew between the INF-restricted range of 310 and 3,420 miles.

Washington had accused Moscow of first violating their longstanding pact by deploying the Novator 9M729 cruise missile but Russian officials defended their compliance, and counterclaimed the Pentagon was already violating the INF with anti-missile systems deployed on the eastern flank of the NATO military alliance. Putin has ordered his officials to also begin developing medium and intermediate-range missiles but has placed a moratorium on deploying them unless the U.S. did first.

Russia has, however, begun to outpace the U.S. in developing and deploying other powerful assets such as nuclear-capable, highly-maneuverable hypersonic weapons. Moscow politicians criticized the Pentagon on Tuesday after it reports emerge that it held a "mini-exercise" simulating a nuclear exchange between the two leading military powers.

During his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Army General Mark Milley described Russia as the "only country on the Earth that represents a, no kidding, existential threat to the United States."

"Every man, woman and child can be killed by the Russians, and we can do the same, hence deterrence," Milley said. "Maintaining a guaranteed nuclear enterprise is critical relative to Russia."