As faster and higher flying American bombers and spyplanes began to appear throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet air defense network was pressed to develop anti-aircraft measures to meet the growing threat. In time, artillery-based weapons gave way to missile-minded solutions and the evolution of these Soviet designs proved considerable throughout the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Empire, the Russian military languished for years under questionable management and improper funding. Today, however, the trend has been reversed and Russia has regained its footing on the world stage with a drive to become a premiere global military power once more. Development of evermore capable Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems has been key in the ongoing expansion.
The 50R6 "Vityaz" (also "S-350E") is a SAM system incorporating a multifunction AESA-based (Active, Electronically-Scanned Array) radar system with integrated command post and launcher unit. At the heart of this system is the 9M96 surface-to-air missile which can feature passive and homing guidance. The Vityaz can engage multiple aerial targets at medium range and clear its launch tubes within seconds. The missiles sit in twelve large tubes seated in a launcher pack over the rear of BZKT heavy-duty, 8x8 wheeled military truck chassis. The trucks are manufactured by Bryansky Avtomobilny Zavod and feature a diesel powerplant, forward-set driving cabin, and all-wheel drive support. The missiles were developed by government-owned MKB Fakel while the complete Vityaz system's own development is under GSKB Almaz-Antey of Moscow. Manufacture of the systems, ongoing since 2015, is under the Northwest Regional Center of Almaz-Antey.
The 50R6 series is intended as a successor to the S-300 (NATO: SA-10 "Grumble") self-propelled SAM vehicle line which debuted in the late 1970s. First deliveries of the new model to the Russian Army inventory is expected sometime in 2016 with initial operating strength to be achieved around 2020.