Friday, June 29, 2007

Russia revamps nuclear forces

Russia carries out successful missile test

MOSCOW: Russia has carried out a successful test of a sea-based intercontinental missile from a nuclear submarine, the military said Thursday.

The test on the new Bulava ballistic missile was conducted in the White Sea off Russia's northwest coast, military spokesman Igor Dygalo told AFP.

"The missile warhead arrived in the foreseen deadline" in the Kura test range in the Kamchatka region of Russia's Far East, the spokesman added.

The missile was fired from the same submarine, the Dmitry Donskoi, that was used for a test which failed last October. Two other tests have failed in recent years.

The test comes amid Russian anger at US plans to locate a powerful missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic as well interceptor missiles in Poland to combat what it says are threats to global security.

Bulava missiles have a range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) and can be equipped with up to 10 individually targetted nuclear warheads.

According to the Russian press, Moscow first tested a Bulava in September 2005 and conducted a first successful test in December of that year. At least 10 more Bulava tests are in the pipeline for 2008, Russian news agencies said.

Bulavas are designed to stock Russia's new Borei class of submarine and Moscow has spoken of their ability to pierce any potential missile shield.

On May 29, Russia announced a successful test of the RS-24, another new intercontinental missile with multiple warheads that Moscow has presented in response to Washington's missile defence shield ambitions.

Russia has also begun mass production of Topol-M strategic missiles, the land-based equivalent of the Bulava, the country's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Tuesday.

"We are now moving on to a new and very important rearmament stage for both our nuclear strategic forces and our tactical complexes," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"These are not prototypes but mass production," he said.

"I am talking of stationary Topol-M missile complexes but also of mobile ones which can be fitted with different types of warhead, as well as Iskander-M missiles."

The Topol-M is known to NATO as the SS-27 and is a three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) which can be deployed on both stationary and mobile launch platforms.

It is 22.7 metres (74 feet) long with a diameter of 1.95 metres and weighs 47 tonnes.

The Iskander-M is a short range tactical missile known to NATO as the SS-26.

Ivanov announced in July 2006 that by 2015 the Russian armed forces would be equipped with 69 Topol-M missiles and about 60 Iskander-M weapons.