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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Bulava failure must not stop tests - Russian arms sector official

RIA Novosti

12:3817/07/2009 MOSCOW, July 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia should continue test launches of the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile despite a series of failures, a defense industry source said on Friday.

On July 15, a Bulava SLBM self-destructed after its first stage malfunctioned when it was fired from the submerged Dmitry Donskoi strategic nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea.

"The tests of the Bulava should be continued after a thorough investigation of the incident. These failures are unavoidable during the development of new missiles," the source in the Russian government's Military-Industrial Committee said.

He added, however, that the failure during the separation of the first stage was a serious concern because this had never previously been a problem.

The source said the Bulava program had been overly politicized and fierce competition among the companies involved in the project was negatively affecting the manufacturing and the testing process.

Six of the 11 test launches of the Bulava have ended in failure. The launches were temporarily suspended and the missile components were tested in the labs after a series of previous failures.

An investigation established that the failure in December last year occurred because one of the subcontractors supplied faulty ejection cartridges which were used in the separation of the missile's stages.

Russian security-related agencies could join the investigation into the July 15 failure because the incident may be considered an act of sabotage, a security official said on Friday.

"A faulty part could be installed in a missile due to the absence of effective quality control by the manufacturer, or directly during the assembly. Taking into account the importance of the new missile for the naval component of Russia's nuclear triad, both cases will be considered acts of sabotage," the source said.

The Russian military expects the Bulava, along with Topol-M land-based ballistic missiles, to become the core of Russia's nuclear triad.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30) SLBM carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). The three-stage ballistic missile is designed for deployment on Borey-class Project 955 nuclear-powered submarines.



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