MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's navy successfully test-fired an advanced ballistic missile from a new-generation nuclear submarine Tuesday following a string of failed tests that dimmed the deployment of Moscow's most expensive post-Soviet military project.
The Bulava missile was launched from the Yuri Dolgoruky submarine in the White Sea that separates Russia from Scandinavia, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov said. The missile's warheads reached the Kura testing range on the Pacific Kamchatka Peninsula, some 5,500 kilometers (3,500 miles) away, he said.
The Bulava is a three-stage, hypersonic intercontinental missile with highly maneuverable warheads capable of dodging any potential missile defenses. It is designed to have a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) and carry six to ten individually targeted nuclear warheads.
Russia's top brass described it as a future pillar of Russia's nuclear arsenal as Soviet-built missiles are gradually retired. The Bulava program has consumed a large chunk of the Russian military budget without much success — only half of the previous 14 launches were pronounced successful.
Two of the 14 tests were launched from the Yuri Dolgoruky, a new Borei-class nuclear submarine specifically designed to carry up to 12 the Bulava missiles. The submarine's construction started in 1996 and dragged on for years due to poor financing. Several other Borei-class nuclear submarines are under construction, and Russia plans to complete a total of eight subs by 2015.
Retired Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin hailed Tuesday's launch saying the missile could be deployed next year after four more successful tests. "The launch proves all the previous criticism of Bulava unjust," Dvorkin told the Interfax news agency.
The military said they plan five more launches of the Bulava this year.