#PutinAtWar: New Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile

A brief look into Russia’s newly introduced PRS-1M interceptor missile

(Source: Twitter / @mod_russia)

On November 24th, a newly introduced Russian interceptor missile successfully hit a mock target. @DFRLab previously reported on Russia flexing its offensive nuclear capabilities, this time the improvements are defensive. The PRS-1M interceptor missile is the newest addition to the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system (NATO reporting name: ABM-3) guarding Moscow. @DFRLab took a deeper look into the new Russian missile and its capabilities.

Russian MoD (Ministry of Defense) readout the new missile’s successful test on November 24th via official website. The post included video footage of the actual missile testing, which provided a glimpse into the training grounds where these tests took place.

Russian MoD official tweet about the new missile. (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia)

The Russian MoD post mentioned the test was carried out at Sary-Shagan missile testing site in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The video provided by the MoD confirmed these claims. Sary-Shagan is one of a few military sites (Sary-Shagan, Emba missile testing site and the 929th State Test Flight Center) that Kazkahstan leased out to Russia. Sary-Shagan site was established in 1956 for testing anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems fired from Kapustin Yar missile test site.

Location of the vehicle in the MoD video. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Top Right: (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia); Left Right: Source: Twitter / @mod_russia).

The vehicle carrying the missile appeared at the crossroad next to the Sary-Shagan base military airport. The vehicle turned and appeared to move westward, deeper into the military test site.

Possible direction of the vehicle. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Top Right: (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia); Left Right: Source: Twitter / @mod_russia).

The official video does not provide enough information to confirm the exact location of the launch. Nevertheless, the launch facility northwest from the location where the vehicle appeared to be turning, is possibly the launch site seen in the video.

Possible launch site. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: GoogleMaps).
The launch of the PRS-1M interceptor missile (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia)Possible launch site. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Top Right: (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia); Left Right: Source: Twitter / @mod_russia).
The launch of the PRS-1M interceptor missile (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia)

Here are these locations pinpointed on the map:

(Source: GoogleMaps)

Deputy Commander of the Aerospace Forces formation Colonel Andrey Prihodko stated in the official report:

The anti-ballistic missile followed the flight plan and successfully hit a mock target.

The new missile is a modernized variant of 53T6/PRS-1 (NATO reporting name GAZELLE) and may be deployed inside a stationary reinforced missile silo or from a mobile launcher. The upgraded interceptor missile has a new hull with a composite material heat shield and a more powerful engine.

Reportedly, the PRS-1M interceptor is able to destroy targets at a distance of 350 kilometers and at an altitude, according to various estimates, of 40,000 to 50,000 meters. The long-range missiles will presumably be equipped with nuclear warheads. The older version 53T6/PRS-1 was able to destroy targets only within 80–100 kilometers and at an altitude of 30,000 meters.

Image of the new PRS-1M interceptor missile. (Source: Twitter / @mod_russia)

The A­135 system is a Russian military complex deployed around Moscow to encounter enemy missiles targeting the city or its surrounding areas. It became operational in 1995 and was considered to be one of a kind system, defending Moscow with nuclear-tipped missiles. The introduction of PRS-1M interceptor missiles, will expand the safe zone around Moscow, arguably even from nuclear threats.

@DFRLab will continue to monitor Russian nuclear military developments and exercises.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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