New Russian Ballistic Missiles Are 'Unrivaled,' Putin Says

By Sergei Blagov | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Moscow ( - The Kremlin hopes new weapons systems, including a sea-launched intercontinental ballistic missile successfully tested this week, will help restore Russia's geopolitical prominence.

The new-generation Bulava missile was launched Tuesday from a Northern Fleet strategic nuclear submarine in the White Sea, flying to a firing range on the Kamchatka peninsula, 12 time zones to the east.

The solid-fuel missile can carry up to ten individually guided nuclear warheads and has a range of up to 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles).

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov Wednesday hailed the successful test, saying the armed forces would deploy the new weapon by the end of 2007.

Bulava missiles have been designed for Russia's new Borey-class nuclear submarines, two of which are being built and will be commissioned in 2006 and 2007.

The test-launch came on the same day as President Vladimir Putin used a live call-in television show to tout Russia's new strategic missile systems.

"We are developing and will provide the army with new high-precision strategic missile systems that are unique and unlikely to appear earlier in any other country," he said.

Putin described the new missiles as "hypersonic and capable of changing course and height during flight." They would have "no rivals" and be "practically invulnerable," he added.

Moscow has long stressed that it has the capability to overwhelm a U.S. missile defense umbrella due to the size of its ballistic missile arsenal.

After President Bush pulled out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue the missile defense program, Russia announced it was no longer bound by previous agreements that prohibited missiles with multiple warheads.

Having multiple warheads would reduce a weapon's vulnerability to missile defense systems which are designed to intercept and destroy one warhead at a time.

The missile developments are the latest indication of Putin's efforts to stress Russia's continuing military capabilities, 14 years after the Soviet Union disintegrated.

Last fall, Russia said it planned to develop nuclear weapons which other nuclear powers did not yet have and were unlikely to develop.

In February 2004, Russia said it successfully tested a new strategic supersonic system allowing altitude and course maneuvering of long-range missiles, to avoid U.S. defenses.

In October 2003, Putin said Russia retained the right to deliver preemptive military strikes.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.