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Outside View: Bulava green light -- Part 2

By
VIKTOR YUZBASHEV, UPI Outside View Commentator

MOSCOW, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- According to the Western press, the three-stage solid-fuel Bulava-M missile will be one of the lightest in its class. Weighing only 30 metric tons, it was initially named Bulava-30. It has an effective range of 4,972 miles and will carry four to 10 warheads.

Some experts claim that such a light missile could not carry 10 warheads. Others argue that modern nuclear technology and composite materials allow engineers to build smaller and lighter nuclear warheads that will be as effective as their larger counterparts.

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The Bulava will most likely be built to carry 10 warheads, as its combat effectiveness would not be sufficient otherwise. The Yury Dolgoruky, the first of the Borey-class submarines, will have 12 missile launchers, but the two later subs, the Vladimir Monomakh and the Alexander Nevsky, will have 16 launchers.

If the designers' plans materialize, the three new submarines will carry 44 Bulava missiles with 440 nuclear warheads, an impressive contribution to strategic nuclear deterrence stipulated in Russia's military doctrine.

The results of trials of the Bulava, as well as its parameters, flight telemetry, technical characteristics and the companies involved in its construction and production, are confidential information for everyone but the United States. Washington receives information on missile technology in accordance with the START-1 treaty on strategic reductions.

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This information is secret only to the Russian military and its designers, as well as Russian taxpayers, who are paying for the missile designed to protect them. Why?

The Bulava, as well as the Yury Dolgoruky and other submarines of its class, has become hostage to the political ambitions of some high-ranking Russian officials. They promised that a cutting-edge submarine would be built and armed with the latest missiles capable of evading any air defense systems, both existing and future ones, by the end of 2008. They have repeated this promise often and loudly enough to give the Russian public and Western politicians hearing problems. Failure to keep their word could cost them their high positions and ruin their hopes of climbing to the country's top post.

This is why the Bulava has been put into production before the design stage was completed, and this is why they have again promised that the new sub will be delivered to the navy already armed with the new SLBM.

However, Adm. Vladimir Masorin hinted that not all of the new missile would go into production now, but only its blocks and stages that have proved their reliability during tests. When the trials of the Bulava-M are over and the missile receives the certificate of the state acceptance committee, they will be assembled at the Votkinsk machine tool works and supplied to the three new subs, as well as to the Dmitry Donskoi, a Project 941 Akula-class -- NATO designation Typhoon-class -- submarine, which has been upgraded to a fourth-generation submarine.

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It carries 20 missile launchers, and if it is armed with the Bulava-M SLBMs, this will increase Russia's naval nuclear deterrence potential by 200 warheads.

Only, that is, if the Bulava-M missile survives the political race.

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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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