MOSCOW, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The Russian military has successfully test launched a long-range ballistic missile fired from a nuclear submarine.
The move marks a significant boot to the nation's weapons program, afflicted by a spate of failed launches for years.
In a statement the defense ministry said the Bryansk nuclear submarine of the navy's northern fleet fired a Sineva-type missile from the Barents Sea. Another nuclear submarine, the Georgii Pobedonosets of the Pacific fleet, launched an RSM-50 from the Sea of Okhotsk.
Both missiles have a range of about 5,000 miles.
The military said it had also launched a Bulava missile off the country's northwest coast from its Dmitry Donskoi nuclear submarine.
"The rocket's trajectory was within the normal parameters," a navy official was quoted saying in Russia media. "The rocket successfully hit the Kura testing ground."
Just five of 12 previous launches of the 37-ton and 39-foot-long missile had succeeded.
What's more the last launch of the Bulava last December resulted in one of the most embarrassing operations with the missile disintegrating early in its flight, producing spectacular plumes of smoke that had residents as far away as Norway talking of unidentified objects cited in the skies.
Designed to dodge missile defenses, the Bulava can be equipped with as many as 10 nuclear warheads. It has a maximum range of about 5,000 miles and is the sea-based version of the Russian Topol-M surface-to-surface missile.
Military experts argue that the Bulava is at the heart of the Kremlin's bid to update Soviet-era structures and equipment, bringing the armed forces in line with modern warfare demands. It is said to become the chief weapon in the country's strategic missile force.
Russian media said the tests come as the country prepares to launch a new series of submarines called the Yuri Dolgorukiy. Several other such submarines are also set to be produced.
Military analysts have warned, however, that the submarines would prove useless if the Bulava wouldn't function perfectly.
Earlier this year, Russia's military chief of staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov said that fundamental changes would be required to the missile program if more ill-fated launches continue to take place.
AHN News reported that the missile's production was at stake if the Bulava launch failed. Despite the failures, military engineers insist the missile concept is fine, attributing past flops to manufacturing flaws resulting from the post-Soviet industrial degradation.
In recent weeks, and in anticipating of the launch, military officials said the sea-launched intercontinental ballistic missile Bulava would be ready by mid 2011, the Intefax news agency reported.