Maxim Pyadushkin writes:
Russia’s new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile failed its fourth successive launch test on Wednesday, December 9. The missile was fired from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy in the White Sea.
Russia’s RosBusinessConsulting news agency, citing defense ministry sources, reported that the failure involved the missile’s third stage.
Test launch submarine Donskoy (Sevmash)
Bulava has a launch mass of 36.8 tons and has a throw weight of 1,150 kg throw weight at 8,000 km range. The first two stages are solid-fueled, but the third stage is liquid-fueled to provide the energy required for range and warhead separation. The missile can reportedly carry from 6 to 10 nuclear warheads of 100-150 kt each, which will maneuver at hypersonic speed to engage individual targets.
This was the 11th test launch of Bulava. Only five launches have been successful since tests started in 2004, but the Russian military is still committed the program. Bulava will be the main armament of the new Borei-class SSBNs. The first sub of the class - Yuri Dolgorukiy – is undergoing sea trials and is due to be commissioned in 2010. The Russian Navy plans to have 8 such submarines by 2017 to replace ageing Delta-IV class SSBNs.