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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


3M14 Bulava (Mace) SS-N-30 / SS-NX-32

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu previously ordered five additional launches of the Bulava missile following the failed launch on 06 September 2013. With the latest flop, eight of 19 or 20 test launches of the Bulava have officially been declared failures. Some analysts have suggest the real number may be considerably higher, however. The Russian Navy postponed any further trials of the troubled submarine-launched Bulava ballistic missile until 2014, Navy Commander Adm. Viktor Chirkov said 13 November 2013. “All plans have been moved to next year in accordance with the schedule of state trials,” Chirkov said at a conference on prospects for military shipbuilding until 2050. Ivan Kharchenko, a first deputy chairman of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, had said in mid-September 2013 that new test launches of would start later in 2014.

The latest failed launch of Russia’s new submarine-launched ballistic missile was caused by a manufacturing glitch, the Defense Ministry said 20 November 2013. On 06 September 2013, a Bulava missile fired during state trials of the ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky in the White Sea failed in the second minute of flight. A state commission led by the head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, carried out an investigation into the failed launch. “The commission has finished the investigation. The causes of the failure are related to faulty manufacturing of the missile’s nozzle,” Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said at a roundtable conference on state defense contracts held by RIA Novosti. Borisov said the same flaw had been fixed on three remaining missiles in the same production batch, but claimed that production of the missile in general was “technologically sound.”

The Bulava (SS-NX-30) is the submarine-launched version of Russia's most advanced missile, the Topol-M (SS-27) solid fuel ICBM. The SS-NX-30 is a derivative of the SS-27, except for a slight decrease in range due to conversion of the design for submarine launch. The SS-27 has is 21.9 meters long, far too large to fit in a typical submarine. The largest previously deployed Russian SLBM was the R-39 / SS-N-20 STURGEON, which was 16 meters long. Russian sources report that the Bulava SS-N-30 ballistic missile can carry ten warheads to a range of 8,000km. Other sources suggest that the Bulava might have a range of 10,000 km, and is reportedly features a 550 kT yield nuclear warhead. Apparently up to six MIRVs can be placed at the cost of offloading warhead shielding and decoys.

The development of a solid-fuel ballistic missile, which was to have replaced the obsolete R-39 (RSM-52) SLBM (NATO reporting name, SS-N-20 Sturgeon), was not completed. The missile's initial three tests were conducted unsuccessfully at a White Sea testing range in the late 1990s. Each time, the missile blew up in mid-air, failing to reach its target. The R-39M SS-N-28 Bark was already in the test stage, when the Navy refused from the missile in favor of the new designer, the Moscow Teplotechnika Institute [Moscow Institute of Heat Technology]. The institute was engaged in ground based Topol missiles and actively lobbied by the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Russia's Borey-class nuclear submarines will be equipped with Bulava missiles. As of 2007 three submarines were being built at the Sevmash plant in Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk Region, in north European Russia. Contrary to some expectations, by 2007 it was increasingly clear that older Typhoon Project 941 submarines would not be expected to undergo an upgrade for the new Bulavas.

The creation of D-19UTH missile complex designed for the new nuclear strategic submarines of the Borei-class has been undertaken at GRTs KB named after V. P. Makeev. The D-19UTH launch complex is to replace the D-9 launch complex with RSM-52 ballistic missiles. The new complex will be equipped with a solid-fuel ballistic missile of greater reliability and longer range, capable of being fired from the surface and under-water positions.

The M in the missile index stands for "morskoy," or "naval," because the Bulava is, in effect, a derivative of the land-based missile Topol (SS-27). Yuri Solomonov, head of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, the Bulava designer, referring to the size and weight restrictions for sea-launched missiles, said that "here there is no talk of unification because you get two basically different theoretical approaches." Nonetheless, he admits, the designers took as much as they could from the SS-27 because in today's Russia - a far cry from the Soviet era - cost effectiveness also becomes a priority. Human resources made up for scarce financing: people who can design, test, and deploy state-of-the-art missiles appropriately for the little money they receive are certainly worth their weight in gold.

The Moscow Heat Engineering Institute was ordered to develop a new SLBM, i.e. the Bulava. The Yuri Dolgoruky and the world's largest Typhoon-class SSBN, the Dmitry Donskoi, had to be redesigned accordingly. The missile platform, rather than the missile itself, was the main problem. Any Russian, US, French or British SSBN uses special propellant charges, cavitators, when it launches missiles from beneath the waves. These cavitators precede the missile, pushing water aside, thereby enabling the missile to move freely.

It is extremely difficult to identify the appropriate clearance between two physical bodies flying out of the water to ensure that the flames of a powder or another charge do not affect the warhead of another. The point is that several nuclear warheads share one multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV). At the same time, the speeds of these two bodies must be synchronised to the highest degree of accuracy to ensure the clearance is not too great. Moreover, the cavitator must fly aside on the surface and let the missile continue to its target.

The difficulties did not only lie in the technical and technological aspects. The project also failed to receive regular budget allocations at the planned levels. This naturally affected the commissioning of the new strategic systems and the smooth running of the missile-production chain. Nonetheless, the new-generation SLBM was developed in record time, despite the problems besetting the Moscow Heat Engineering Institute and the country's military-industrial sector. Financing began in late 1999.

Moscow initially planned to conduct the first test launch of the Bulava during 2004. Russia successfully conducted surface and underwater pop-up tests of the Bulava missile in 2004. The 2004 tests entailed the launching of a practice round, the goal being to test the launcher that fires the missile from the submarine's silo. The first successful underwater launch was conducted in September 2004 An exact replica of a real Bulava reached a preset altitude after being launched from the submerged world's largest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the Dmitry Donskoi.

The first flight test launch was conducted 27 September 2005 from the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine in the Northern Fleet. The missile was launched from the Dmitry Donskoy, a Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine, at 5:22 p.m. Moscow time (1:22 p.m. GMT). "At the estimated elapsed time a dummy warhead hit the designated 'target' at the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula," a navy spokesman said. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov praised this test of the new Bulava missile system. "We focused financial and administrative resources on designing the fourth-generation Bulava system," Sergei Ivanov said. "The Armed Forces will get these weapons by the end of 2007."

On 21 December 2005 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the Bulava ballistic missile had successfully completed its test launch. "The launch has been conducted successfully," Sergei Ivanov said in a report to the Russian President. "The separation of all stages, combat and simulation blocks occurred according to pre-set parameters."

The missile was launched from the submerged Dmitry Donskoy, a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, and successfully hit its dummy target at the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East. "What is important is that the submarine was moving [underwater], it was not stationary," the minister said. It is the first test launch of the Bulava missile from a submerged position and the second overall under the trial program.

Ivanov also said the tests of the Bulava missile would continue in 2006. "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," he said [this seems to represent a slight slip from the "end of 2007" reported a few months earlier].

This new-generation missile system, approved at the highest level, veered off course one minute after liftoff on September 7, 2006 and fell into the White Sea. A special governmental commission concluded that the cause of the failure was a malfunctioning control system. Then, on 25 October 2006, another R-30 missile deviated from a preset trajectory and self-destructed. On 24 December 2006, the Bulava missile once again demonstrated its erratic behavior, dropping into arctic waters shortly after launch.

On 28 June 2007 Russia successfully tested the new Bulava (SS-NX-30) sea-based ballistic missile, after several previous failures. Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press that the Bulava missile hit its target on the Pacific peninsula of Kamchatka, about 6,700 kilometers (4,200 miles) east of Moscow, after being launched in northern Russia's White Sea from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi, a 941 Akula / TYPHOON class submarine outfited in 2005 as the SS-N-30 Bulava test platform. Through December 2009 the Bulava (SS-NX-30) has had 12 flights with 7 failures among other set backs for this 10 MIRV, three stage solid propellant, 37 metric ton 12 meter long 8,000 km range guided ballistic missile.

On 28 June 2011 and after an 8-month break, Russia resumed test-launches of the Bulava SLBM; launching the missile from the Yury Dolgoruky nuclear powered submarine in the White Sea. The launch was qualified a success with the missile hitting a designated target some 6,000 kilometers to the east and located on the Kura test range in Russia's Kamchatka region. Of 14 perviously conduced test launches, only seven had officially been declared as being successes.

On December 23, 2011, Russia conducted the 18th and 19th test launches of the Bulava SLBMs. The two missiles were launched from the Borey-class Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea and hit targets located at the Kura test range on Kamchatka, some 6,000 kilometers to the east.

Following two successful December 23, 2011 test launches, Russian President Medvedev announced on December 27 that the flight testing phase of the Bulava SLBM was now complete, and the missile would now henceforth be adopted for service with the Russian Navy.

Russia successfully test-fired a Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the Borey-class Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine, the Russian Defense Ministry said 29 October 2014. The missile was launched from the submerged submarine at a location in the Barents Sea and hit a designated target at the Kura test range on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, the ministry said in a statement. According to the statement, it was the first operational test launch of Bulava in line with the program of combat training. All previous launches were part of development testing.

Russia successfully test-fired on 28 November 2014 a Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from its Borey-class Alexander Nevsky nuclear-powered submarine. The missile was launched from a designated location the Barents Sea and hit a selected target at the Kura test range on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.



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