MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s military said on Wednesday new tests of a long-range missile seen as a mainstay of its nuclear forces would be crucial, expressing rare public concern that major changes would be needed if they failed.
The military chief of staff, General Nikolai Makarov, spoke shortly before a Russian official said the country would spend nearly twice as much as previously planned to arm its military over the next decade.
As details of the missile tests and extra spending were announced, President Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that Moscow’s weapons technology lags behind the West.
Russia says it plans to maintain its nuclear might despite the dissipation of Cold War tension and has boasted of the Bulava, a submarine-launched missile designed to deliver multiple warheads as far as 8,000 km (5,000 miles).
But the program has been clouded by unsuccessful tests. Seven of 12 test launches of the Bulava have failed and three have been labeled partial successes, according to the Moscow business daily Kommersant.
Makarov said Russia will not abandon the Bulava, but that a series of test launches expected this year should determine how much of an overhaul is needed.
“Very much depends on these launches,” news agencies quoted him as saying. “If the launches are unsuccessful, we will have to fundamentally revise the whole production cycle of these missiles.”
Officials have said test launches failed for at least three different reasons, raising concerns that much work may be needed.
Russian media had previously cited officials as saying new tests were planned for August or September, but Makarov said it was unlikely any would be conducted this month, state-run Itar-Tass reported.
Medvedev, whose mandate to make Russia’s resource-reliant economy more competitive includes efforts to turn its lumbering military into a more streamlined, effective force, said the arms industry is not meeting demands for more advanced weapons.
“We are lagging behind highly developed countries,” he told officials at a meeting focusing on military modernization.
Vice-premier Sergei Ivanov said Russia would try to remedy that by committing at least 22.5 trillion roubles ($724.6 billion) on a 2011-2020 armaments program, Itar-Tass reported.
“There were never such amounts in the past -- people only dreamed about them,” Ivanov was quoted as saying.
Military brass said earlier this year that preliminary plans to spend 13 trillion roubles ($418.7 billion) on the program would leave swaths of the armed forces underfunded, and officials at the time stressed the plans could be revised.
The spending plan requires formal approval, and it was not clear whether the figure Ivanov announced was final.
Additional reporting by Denis Dyomkin; Editing by Charles Dick