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Failed Test To Delay Russia's Newest Missile

A Bulava missile launch, undated
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The introduction of Russia's newest nuclear missile may be delayed by at least six months after a failed test launch this week, Interfax news agency has quoted an arms industry source as saying.

Last month Russia's deputy defense minister in charge of weapons, Vladimir Popovkin, said that Russia expected to commission the much-delayed Bulava strategic missile this year once testing was completed.

But on July 15 a Bulava missile self-destructed after a malfunction during the first stage of its flight from the White Sea in the northwest of the country.

"In the best-case scenario, the next test-flight of the Bulava will take place in five or six months, meaning that the time frame for introducing this missile will be postponed by at least half a year," Interfax quoted an arms industry source close to a commission investigating the accident as saying.

The submarine-launched Bulava (Mace), which is capable of carrying up to 10 warheads for up to 8,000 kilometers, now has a history of six unsuccessful launches and just five successful ones.

An intercontinental ballistic missile, the Bulava is designed to be deployed on Russia's newest Project 955 nuclear submarines of the Borei (Arctic Wind) class being built at Sevmass shipbuilder in northern Russia.

Russia's war with neighboring Georgia last August exposed a Soviet-style army with obsolete equipment, prompting the government to embark on an ambitious program to modernize its military, analysts have said.

The country relies heavily on its still-formidable nuclear triad of ground-based, submarine-launched, and bomber-carried missiles.