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    Russia to put into service Bulava ballistic missiles in 2009

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    Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to complete tests and put into service sea-based Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in 2009, a deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

    MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to complete tests and put into service sea-based Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in 2009, a deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

    The Bulava (SS-NX-30) ICBM carries up to 10 nuclear warheads and has a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). It is designed for deployment on Borey-class Project 955 nuclear-powered submarines.

    "We are planning to complete the firing tests and put the Bulava missile system on combat duty aboard the Yury Dolgoruky submarine this year," Gen. Vladimir Popovkin said.

    The latest unsuccessful submerged test launch on December 23 from the Dmitry Donskoi strategic nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea, off Russia's northwest coast, was Bulava's fifth failure in ten trials.

    However, the Russian military said that production flaws could be to blame for the unsuccessful test launches and insisted that the tests would continue until the missile was ready for production.

    Popovkin said the number of Bulava tests in 2009 could exceed five, and the first test would be conducted not earlier than in June.

    Meanwhile, sea trials of Yury Dolgoruky, Russia's first Borey-class strategic nuclear submarine are due to start in the spring when navigation begins in the White Sea.

    The submarine was built at the Sevmash plant in northern Russia and was taken out of dry dock in April 2007.

    The vessel is 170 meters (580 feet) long, has a hull diameter of 13 meters (42 feet), a crew of 107, including 55 officers, a maximum depth of 450 meters (about 1,500 feet) and a submerged speed of about 29 knots. It can carry up to 16 ballistic missiles and torpedoes.

    Two other Borey-class nuclear submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard and are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011. Russia is planning to build a total of eight submarines of this class by 2015.

    Popovkin said a quarter of funds from Russia's state defense orders would be allocated in 2009 to support the strategic nuclear forces, including their naval component.

    Russia's state defense orders for 2009 are worth about 1 trillion rubles ($28 billion), with money allocated to the Defense Ministry, as well as to more than 10 other ministries and agencies.

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