Russian Tests of New Submarine-Based Missiles End in Failure

A test of a new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile ended in failure Thursday when it fell into the sea shortly after its launch from a nuclear submarine, the Defense Ministry said.

The nuclear submarine Dmitry Donskoy launched the experimental Bulava missile from an underwater position in the White Sea toward a testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula, but it veered off its designated flight path and fell into the sea shortly after the launch, the ministry said.

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The military previously had conducted four successful test-launches of the Bulava, which is set to be commissioned by the navy in 2008 and become a new standard weapon of Russian nuclear submarines. The Bulava has a range of 5,000 miles and carries six individually targeted nuclear warheads.

After years of desperate funds shortages following the Soviet collapse in 1991, the Kremlin has bolstered defense spending markedly. Officials touted the new Topol-M and Bulava missiles, saying that they would be capable of penetrating any prospective missile defense systems.

While previous Bulava launches had been successful, some other submarine-based missiles had ended in failure in recent years. The navy suffered two embarrassing launch failures during Northern Fleet maneuvers attended by President Vladimir Putin in February 2004 when one missile failed to blast off from a submarine and another exploded shortly after its launch a day later.