World News

Russia delays Bulava missile test to 2011 - agency

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has delayed the next submarine test launch of its troubled intercontinental nuclear missile Bulava until 2011, Itar-Tass state news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Bulava missile, which Moscow plans to make the cornerstone of its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, has failed seven of its previous 14 tests, endangering the future of the project which is estimated to cost at least $3 billion.

The next test had been scheduled for Dec. 17.

“The White Sea region, from where the Bulava was to be launched, is covered with ice,” Itar-Tass quoted an unidentified defence industry source, who had been due to attend the test launch, as saying.

“The exact date of the next test launch of the Bulava in 2011 is not yet decided, but it will take place in the first half of the year,” he said.

Test launches have sent the nearly 37-tonne missile from Russia’s border with Finland to the peninsula of Kamchatka, in Russia’s Far East.

Russian defence sources have been quoted as saying that the 12-metre long Bulava, which means “mace” in Russian, would not enter service until tests proved it 98-99 percent reliable.

In previous tests the missile self-destructed leading to doubts about its reliability. One missile can hold 6-10 nuclear warheads, which would deliver an impact of up to 100 times the atomic blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.

Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Maria Golovnina