MOSCOW — The new nuclear-capable missile central to Russia's plan to revamp its ageing weapons arsenal has suffered a new failure in testing, in a major blow for the armed forces, reports said Thursday.
The submarine-launched Bulava missile was test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea early Wednesday but failed at the third stage, the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers reported, quoting defence sources.
No further details on the circumstances of the launch were available.
The test was the 13th test-firing of the Bulava and the ninth time that the launch has failed, Vedomosti said.
However the Russian defence ministry declined to comment on the failure or even confirm that the test launch of the intercontinental missile had taken place, the reports added.
The problems with the Bulava have become an agonizing issue for the defence ministry which has ploughed a large proportion of its procurement budget into ensuring the missile becomes the key element of its revamped rocket forces.
The previous failure in July had forced the resignation of Yury Solomonov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology which is responsible for developing the missile.
The problems are also a major political embarrassment coming at the same time as Russia is still negotiating with the United States the parameters of a new arms reduction treaty to replace the 1991 START accord.
The treaty expired on December 5 and despite intense negotiations the two sides have yet to announce agreement on the text of a new agreement.
The Bulava, which can be equipped with up to 10 individually targeted nuclear warheads, has a maximum range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles).
It is the sea-based version of the Topol-M, Russia's new surface-to-surface intercontinental missile, and designed to be launched from Moscow's newest Borei class of submarines.
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