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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia's latest Bulava missile test unsuccessful

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, December 10 (RIA Novosti) - The latest test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in the White Sea in northern Russia ended in failure, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Wednesday's test was Bulava's seventh failure, according to official reports. Russia hopes the submarine-launched missile will be a key element of its nuclear forces.

"The first two stages functioned smoothly, but the flight faltered at the third stage. There was a technical failure in the third stage engines rendering them unstable," the ministry said in a statement.

The statement came after media reports on a mysterious light in the form of a spiral over Norway's northern areas several hundred kilometers from the launch site on Wednesday. Norwegian media suggested it could be a Russian missile spinning after a faulty launch.

Only five out of 12 Bulava launches have been reported successful. The previous failure occurred in July, when the missile self-destructed after its first stage malfunctioned. The latest launch had since been delayed several times.

But some analysts suggest that in reality the number of failures has been considerably greater. According to Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, of the Bulava's 11 test launches, only one was entirely successful.

The future development of the Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry experts, who have suggested that all efforts should be focused on the existing Sineva SLBM.

But the military has insisted there is no alternative to the Bulava and pledged to continue testing the missile until it is ready to be put in service with the Navy.

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 solid-propellant ballistic missile is designed for deployment on Borey class nuclear-powered submarines.

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

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