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Outside View: Bulava green light -- Part 1

By
VIKTOR YUZBASHEV, UPI Outside View Commentator

MOSCOW, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Russia has moved to a higher level in the design of strategic sea-based nuclear systems.

Adm. Vladimir Masorin, commander in chief of the Russian navy, said the Bulava-M -- NATO designation SS-NX-30 -- a naval derivative of the land-based missile Topol -- NATO designation SS-27 -- had been approved for mass production.

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It will be supplied to the new fourth-generation Project 955 Borey-class strategic submarines. Three such submarines, the Yury Dolgoruky, the Vladimir Monomakh and the Alexander Nevsky, are being built at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk region north of European Russia.

The Yury Dolgoruky, the first of the series, will have 12 Bulava missiles. It was commissioned in the presence of First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is in charge of Russia's defense-related sectors, and other eminent guests in April 2007.

Development has not been smooth. At first, the Miass bureau designed the D-19M Bark -- NATO designation SS-NX-28 -- submarine-launched ballistic missile, but it turned out to be too big for the subs, and flight tests later exposed other drawbacks. Russia canceled the project in 1998, when the missile was almost ready, because of rising costs and technical difficulties.

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The task was then sent to the Moscow-based Heat Technology Institute, which had developed the ground-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile.

Four of the first six flight tests of the Bulava-M -- where "M" stands for morskoi, or naval -- were a failure. Masorin said the recent test in late July was successful, but independent experts are not so sure. According to them, one of the three warheads of the missile did not reach its destination.

This did not deter the designers of the Bulava and their superiors. Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency, which is responsible for designing and supplying strategic missiles to the armed forces, said the Bulava could be delivered to the navy after 12-14 tests.

He referred to the experience of the United States, where the Trident II naval missile was delivered to the Navy after 19 ground tests and nine launches from a submarine.

Masorin said the trial period of the Bulava would end in 2008 after two more tests this year. One of the trials will determine the missile's maximum range. It is not clear where that particular missile will land, but it will clearly be beyond the Kura range on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East. On the other hand, it could be aimed at the range, but launched not from the White Sea, as usual, but from some other sea.

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(Next: Bulava's nuclear punch)

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(Viktor Yuzbashev is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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