MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Further development of Russia's failure-prone Bulava ballistic missile could be assigned to another design bureau if the project remains in the works, a Russian military expert said on Thursday.
"For 15 years the money [for the project] has been thrown down the drain. I think [work on] the missile will be ultimately given to another firm," said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Military Forecast Center.
The missile, which is being developed by the Moscow-based Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT), has had six failures in 11 tests, and the general director of the institute resigned on Tuesday over what is believed to be a serious setback in the development of Russia's nuclear deterrent.
Yury Solomonov, who occupied the posts of MITT general director and general designer, is the most senior official to date to take responsibility for a series of failures in the development of the project.
Tsyganyk said that Solomonov would most likely retain his job as the chief designer of ballistic missiles, and the decision to separate administrative and R&D responsibilities at MITT was long overdue.
"However, it is hard to say who will carry on the Bulava's development," the analyst said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.
The MITT got the task to develop Bulava after the Makeyev Design Bureau in the city of Miass in the Urals, which specialized in designing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), failed to produce a prototype of its own Bark SLBM.
The MITT, on the contrary, had just produced a winner in the mobile, land-based, single-warhead Topol-M. But the Solomonov-led institute had little or no experience in SLBM development.
"At present, the Makeyev design bureau is practically nonexistent. The average age of the staff is 55-60 years, and it poses a big problem," Tsyganok said.
In addition, the expert confirmed reports that the future development of the Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry officials.
"I heard that some lawmakers have been mulling folding the Bulava project and focusing on the existing Sineva SLBM," he said.
The RSM-54 Sineva (SS-N-23 Skiff) is a third-generation liquid-propellant submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that entered service with the Russian Navy in July 2007. It can carry four or 10 nuclear warheads, depending on the modification, and has a maximum range of over 11,500 kilometers (about 7,100 miles).
Russia carried out successful test launches of two Sineva missiles from two Delta IV class nuclear-powered submarines in service with the Northern Fleet, located under an ice floe near the North Pole, on July 13-14.
The results of the tests confirmed that the Sineva would stay in service with the Russian Navy until at least 2015.
The Bulava (SS-NX-30) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has an estimated range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). The three-stage solid-propellant ballistic missile is designed for deployment on new Borey class nuclear-powered strategic submarines.
The Russian military expects the Bulava, along with Topol-M land-based ballistic missiles, to become the core of Russia's nuclear triad.
Since the latest failure, the Russian Navy has reiterated that the Bulava tests will continue and the missile will inevitably be deployed on Borey class submarines.