Bulava Launch Plans

This week Izvestiya reported on coming launches of the Bulava SLBM.  The paper’s sources say the military and industry want two single test firings before trying a salvo launch test.  They suggest Bulava’s early problems were due to testbed Dmitriy Donskoy.  They also report complaints about the new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

A Navy staff source tells Izvestiya two single Bulava launches are planned before a salvo launch of three [not two as previously reported] missiles is attempted.  An industry source confirms this plan, and adds that Bulava testing is on schedule.

The industry source says Bulavas produced more than two years ago – before the military leadership ordered production inspections – will be used in the test launches.  A specialist tells Izvestiya mod Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy is now viewed more often as the problem in Bulava’s early failures than the missile itself.

The Navy staff source says:

“It was initially planned to conduct the salvo of three missiles in an October launch.  However, they refused this idea at the last moment to check all the missile’s and boat’s systems again.  It’s possible the December salvo will be put off to 2012 if any bugs are observed during the two launches.”

Commentator Konstantin Sivkov told Izvestiya the military and industry delayed the salvo test because of uncertainty about the missile system’s reliability:

“Water disturbance from the preceding missile plays a big role in a salvo launch.  Unstable water could knock the missile off during its exit.  Therefore, all systems have to work perfectly.  And there’s the ‘Yars’ accident in Plesetsk which sowed some doubts.  Only successful launches can dispel them.”

The launch window for Yuriy Dolgorukiy is October 20-22.  According to Izvestiya’s interlocutor, the success of all Dolgorukiy launches supports suspicions that Donskoy might be to blame. 

This seems somewhat flawed logically if the Bulavas themselves were assembled and inspected differently . . . unless they never found any real problem with the missiles.

If the October launch is successful, Izvestiya reports the next will be November 18-19 and the salvo launch of three missiles will be in December.  Success in the latter would finally confirm that the Bulava is ready for combat duty, and the Bulava / Borey weapons system could be accepted.

But Izvestiya also reports the Borey’s radioelectronic, hydraulic, and hydroacoustic [sonar] systems still don’t satisfy the Defense Ministry.  The command and control systems aren’t properly configured yet either.  In short, the SSBN hasn’t fully completed its development. 

And it’s certain the lack of an agreed purchase price and a contract isn’t helping this process.

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