Bulava fits Dolgorukiy like a glove

Source: Reuters/Vostock Photo

Source: Reuters/Vostock Photo

Russia has successfully tested a new generation missile.

The Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile was first launched from the projected carrier: the Yuri Dolgorukiy strategic ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), Project 955, Borei Class, launched a year ago. According to the ministry of defense, in the nearest future will be launched the serial production of Bulava.

During the previous 14 trials, the Bulavamissiles were launched from another specifically modified nuclear submarine, the world’s largest SSNB Dmitry Donskoy, Project 941U, Typhoon (a.k.a. Akula) Class. True, only few of these fourteen launches were successful. Half failed completely and five more were partially successful.

TheBulava-30 (SS-NX-30, a.k.a. R-30/3M30 or RSM-56) is a three-stage solid-fuel naval strategic missile developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT). Yuri Solomonov is the Chief designer of the project. The missile is designed for prospective Borei Class SSBNs. Each Bulava missile can carry up to 10 hypersonic, individually guided, maneuverable warheads that can change the trajectory height and course and strike enemy targets at ranges up to 8,000 km.

Starting weight is 36.8 tons. Throw-weight is 1,150 kg. Length (in launch container) is 12.1 m. Diameter (missile) is 2 m. 

The most anticipated launch – from the Yuri Dolgorukiy SSBN - should have been carried out more than six months ago, but it never was then. Allegedly, the test launch was postponed because the canal through which submarines get from the dock to the open sea was ice-bound and sailors dared not pass it in such difficult conditions. However, the excuse seemed clumsy to experts because Yuri Dolgorukiy is designed to operate in the highest latitudes under Arctic ice and even surface if necessary through found water openings or make such openings with its hull or torpedoes.

The excuse also looked lame because for the winter the SSBN was put into dry dock for commissioning operations, which suggests that either the submarine or the Bulava were not ready for the tests.

The successful launch of Bulava from the Yuri Dolgorukiy SSBN is important for many reasons.

This is not only to show skeptics that the missile has been successfully developed and can be put into service of the Russian Navy (according to senior officials of the Government and the Ministry of Defense, there must be at least five or six successful launches). This is also evidence that despite all the problems the Russian military-industrial complex can build new strategic submarines and design new strategic missiles, the basis for the national nuclear deterrent forces.

Another aspect to evaluate the new SSBN. according to news agencies, its costs amounted to 23 billion rubles. 

According to the Navy plans, the Project 955 SSBNs as well as their upgraded counterparts of Project 955A / 955U should be the foundation for the Russian naval strategic nuclear forces after 2018, when the Delta-III and Delta-IV (Kalmar and Murena) class SSBNs currently in active service are retired. Altogether, eight Borei class submarines are to be built. Unlike Dolgorukiy with its 12 Bulava missiles, the number two and number three hulls are to carry 16 and 20 missiles, respectively. 

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