Bulava (source: Wikimedia)

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.

Posted by SteelJaw in Foreign Policy
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