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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Bulava missile designer blames industry for test failures

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Yury Solomonov, the designer of the troubled Bulava ballistic missile, said that the poor state of the Russian defense industry was the main cause of the weapon's failed test launches.

Solomonov resigned from his post as general director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT) in July 2009 after a series of unsuccessful Bulava tests, but retained his post as general designer of the missile.

"I can say in earnest that none of the design solutions have been changed as a result of the tests. The problems occur in the links of the design-technology-production chain," Solomonov said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Tuesday.

"Sometimes [the problem] is poor-quality materials, sometimes it is the lack of necessary equipment to exclude the 'human' factor in production, sometimes it is inefficient quality control," he said.

The designer complained that the Russian industry is unable to provide Bulava manufacturers with at least 50 of the necessary components for production of the weapon. This forces designers to search for alternative solutions, seriously complicating the testing process.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30) is a three-stage liquid and solid propellant submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). It carries up to ten MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles).

The missile has been specifically designed for Russia's new Borey class nuclear submarines.

Only five of 12 Bulava test launches from the Dmitry Donskoy sub have been officially reported as successful. The future development of Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry officials who suggest that the Russian Navy should keep using the more reliable Sineva SLBM.

The RSM-54 Sineva (SS-N-23 Skiff) is a liquid-propellant SLBM designed for Delta IV class submarines that can carry up to 16 missiles each.

Solomonov questioned the viability of these statements saying the two missiles were incomparable both in terms of technology and performance characteristics.

A special investigation commission is expected to announce on May 30 the official results of a probe into the Bulava failures.

The Russian military has insisted that there is no alternative to the Bulava and pledged to continue testing the missile until it is ready to be deployed with the Navy. At least four new test launches of the missile have been planned for the end of June.

Solomonov vowed in the interview to continue work on the Bulava until it shows stable performance and is ready to join Russia's nuclear triad.

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