According to press reports, the star-crossed Bulava SLBM will go into serial production “soon” – most probably¬†after the next test flight.¬† There is one more test shot scheduled for sometime later this month (after 21 Dec) after which it is anticipated that the new SLBM will be declared operational.¬† Nine tests of the SS-27 derived, solid-fueled SLBM have been attempted with between 4-6 failures in the test series.¬† Tentatively given the NATO designation SS-NX-30, the Bulava,¬†as we have documented here previously,¬†along with the a new-class SSBN (led by the Yuri Dogoruky)¬†are the replacements for the Typhoon and its R-39 missiles.¬† Shorter and wider than the R-39, the Bulava would not be able to be backfitted to earlier SSBNs (save one highly modified Typhoon used as a test bed) and further failures would put the Russian sea-based missile leg at risk as there were no other missiles in development.
17 December update:¬† If open press from Russia is to be believed, 2009 will see an even more ambitious testing program with 13 strategic missile¬†launches planned – five of which are test launches of new missiles.¬† Besides the Bulava IOC noted above, early next year will also see the first operational deployment of the RS-24, a MIRV’d land-mobile missile derived fromt he Topol-M and¬†set to replace the SS-18 and SS-19 silo-based missiles.¬† Some sources have linked the Bulava’s guidance/payload section to use on the RS-24 to enable up to palcement of 10 MIRVs onboard.
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