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    Russia to test launch 14 ICBMs in 2009 - missile forces chief

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    Russia plans 14 test launches of ballistic missiles this year, the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) said on Friday. "Fourteen launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles of various types are planned for 2009," Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said.

    MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia plans 14 test launches of ballistic missiles this year, the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) said on Friday.

    "Fourteen launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles of various types are planned for 2009," Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said.

    He also said the SMF would have two mobile Topol-M missile regiments.

    Russia's first such regiment was deployed near the town of Teikovo near Moscow in December 2006.

    "By late 2009, we plan to complete the provision of the second missile regiment with Topol-M missile systems," Solovtsov said.

    He also said the SMF would adopt six new missile systems in 2009, including Topol-M.

    "Six missile systems will enter service with the SMF in 2009," the commander said.

    He also noted that the RS-20 Voyevoda-M (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile, introduced almost 21 years ago, would remain in service until 2019.

    "The extension of the service life of the [Voyevoda-M] missile will allow us to keep these missiles, the most powerful in the world, in the SMF for another eight to 10 years," the general said.

    Russia reportedly has 88 SS-18 systems, most of them deployed at the Dombarovsky missile base in the Orenburg Region, in the southern Urals.

    Russia successfully test launched earlier on Friday a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile to assess the possibility of extending its service life up to 22 years, an SMF spokesman said.

    The missile was in active service from 1987 until 2007, and deployed with the 54th Strategic Missile Division near Teikovo.

    The RS-12M Topol (SS-25 Sickle) is a single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) approximately the same size and shape as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles were put into service in 1985. The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 km (6,125 miles) and can carry a 550-kiloton nuclear warhead.

    Although the service life of the SS-25 has already been extended to 21 years after a series of successful test launches last year, the missile will be phased out in the next decade and replaced by mobile Topol-M (SS-27 Stalin) missile systems.

    The SMF reportedly have a total of 541 ICBMs, including 306 Topol and 59 Topol-M missiles.

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