Military analysts say the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile will become the mainstay of Russia’s naval strategic nuclear force in the 21st century.
Designers at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, the program’s contractor, said the missile will have a range of up to 8,000 km and will carry six to ten hypersonic maneuvering nuclear warheads capable of changing their flight trajectory.
Consequently, the missile will be invulnerable to operational missile-defense systems worldwide, designers say.
The missile’s initial tests began in 2004 and have not been completed to date. Only seven of the 14 Bulava launches have been deemed successful. An ad hoc board of inquiry was established to assess the causes of setbacks, but has not published an official report. Nevertheless, the missile operated without a hitch during the last two launches in October 2010.
Another launch is scheduled for December 2010. A new phase in Bulava tests will get underway in late May – early June 2011, if the next launch is successful, a state-commission source told RIA Novosti.
Russia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin recently said the Navy would adopt the Bulava, if the missile attained 100% reliability.
The final 2010 launch is to be conducted from the Yury Dolgoruky, a Project 955 Borei class strategic ballistic missile nuclear-powered submarine.
The Russian Federation plans to build eight such submarines carrying 16 Bulava missiles each.