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Russia test-fires old missile to extend lifespan
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia test-fired an intercontinental Stilet missile on Wednesday as part of the checks needed to extend the service of the weapon until 2010, the strategic missile forces said. The missile, which belongs to a type commissioned in 1979 and known in the West as SS-19, was fired from Baikonur space center hired by Russia in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, the forces' statement said. It did not specify where the missile landed.
"The results of the launch confirmed a decision to extend the exploitation time of one of the most reliable missile complexes up to 31 years," it added.
Resurgent Russia views its nuclear potential as an argument supporting its claim for a stronger international role and as an effective deterrent in the face of Moscow's worsening relations with the West.
Russian leaders have pledged tens of millions dollars for the military to develop new types of rockets, capable of breaking through any missile defense system, including the one being set up by the United States.
Test launches of new missiles have become routine in the past few years and the Kremlin says Russia's financial crisis will not discourage it from spending as much cash as needed.
However, the Russian military say that the existing types of missiles are powerful enough to be a reliable nuclear deterrent and can be used further after tests confirming their good technical condition.
Earlier this month, Russia test-fired Topol missile which has been in the arsenal for 21 years.
"Prolonging the exploitation time for Stilets allows to free up considerable funds for other important state needs," the statement said. "The annual spending on research and construction is comparable with building one new missile."
(Writing by Oleg Shchedrov)
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