Strategic Weapons: New Russian SLBM

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October 9, 2005: After years of failures, Russia has finally gotten a new submarine ICBM design that works. A Bulava ICBM (or SLBM, for Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) was successfully fired from a SSBN (nuclear powered ballistic missile sub) on September 27th. The 45 ton Bulava ICBM is a slightly modified version of the new land based Topol-M ICBM. The Bulava is a little shorter, to fit into the missile tube, and thus has a shorter range of some 8,000 kilometers. Bulava has three stages and uses solid fuel. Currently, each Bulava carries a single 500 kiloton nuclear weapon, plus decoys and the ability to maneuver. The warhead is also shielded to provide protection from the electronic pulse of nearby nuclear explosions. Take away all of these goodies, and the Bulava could be equipped with six smaller (150 kiloton) warheads. But the big thing is still trying to defeat American anti-missile systems. The Bulava is expected to enter service next year, aboard the Dmitry Donskoi, am SSBN modified to accommodate the larger Bulava. Three new Borei subs are being built, to carry twelve Bulavas each. Russia currently has a dozen SSBNs in service, carrying a total of 192 older missiles.

 


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