Russia could scrap troubled sea missile: report

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia may halt the development of its accident-prone Bulava sea-based nuclear missiles and opt for another system if future tests fail to work successfully, Interfax reported Friday, quoting industry sources.

Russia has pressed ahead with the Bulava as a crucial plank of its strategic defense that has become a symbol of the country’s attempts to create a new generation of post-Soviet weaponry to match Washington’s advanced arsenal.

Instead, the Sineva missile that has already entered service could be installed on new Borei-class submarines intended to carry the Bulava, Interfax reported.

“The Sineva, which was adopted in 2007, is the most probable alternative to the Bulava,” Interfax quoted a source in the rocket and space industry as saying.

“If Bulava tests continue to fail, this program will most likely be suspended and the Borei class submarines will be adapted for the Sineva. This procedure will be expensive, but there is just no more acceptable option for such a scenario,” the source was quoted as saying.

The submarine-launched Bulava is intended to carry up to 10 warheads for up to 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and is designed to be deployed on Russia’s newest Project 955 nuclear submarines of the Borei class. Six of its 11 test launches have failed.

The Sineva, advertised by the Russia military as one element of a new generation of Russian strategic weapons capable of surpassing any missile defense system, has already successfully hit targets at a distance of 11,547 km (7,200 miles).

The Russian military says Sineva missiles will be operational at least until 2030.

Russia’s war with neighboring Georgia last August exposed a Soviet-style army with obsolete equipment, prompting the government to embark on an ambitious program to modernize its military, analysts have said.

The country relies heavily on its still-formidable nuclear triad of ground-based, submarine-launched and bomber-carried missiles.

Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Richard Williams