Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Bulava failure?

Pavel Podvig reports in his blog Russian strategic nuclear forces on another Bulava (SS-NX-30) test:

There is no official confirmaiton of this, but it appears that Russia conducted a test of the Bulava missile a few days ago. The missile reportedly failed shortly after launch. If this information is correct, then Bulava is back to the unlucky days of 2006, when it failed in three tests in a row - on September 7, 2006, October 25, 2006, and December 24, 2006. One fight test that was conducted after that, on June 28, 2007, was reported to be successful (although there were some doubts about that too).

A couple of days ago, I posted on Russian plans to conduct five launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2007. One of these launches was the test of a RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) on October 29. Russia furthermore specified the testing of three other missiles: a RS-12M (SS-25 Sickle), a missile interceptor and a heavy RS-20 (SS-18 Satan). Assuming that Pavel Podvig's information is correct, the Bulava test was the fifth test launch of the series that was not specified.

Contradictory information came up in an interview with the Russian Admiral Vladimir Masorin, who said in early August that Russia would hold two more test launches of the Bulava missile in 2007 and would complete tests in 2008.

Russia has already made the decision to start the serial production of the Bulava. In 2006 the former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated: "We are fairly certain that the [Bulava] missile system, and a new submarine to be equipped with it, will be deployed by our navy in 2008". Given the lack of success of the test launches, it will be interesting to hear some comments of his successor on a deployment date.

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