Russia test-fires new-generation strategic missile

Russia said Thursday it had test-fired a new-generation strategic missile from a submarine, the latest launch of a multiple-warhead weapon designed to breach anti-missile shields.

"A new-generation Bulava ballistic missile was successfully fired from the White Sea to the Kura testing site in Kamchatka" in Russia's far east, the Russian navy said in a statement.

The Bulava, which the statement said was fired by the Dmitry Donskoi nuclear submarine off the northwest coast of Russia, can be equipped with up to 10 individually targeted nuclear warheads.

The test comes amid Russian anger at US plans to locate a powerful missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic as well interceptor missiles in Poland to combat what it says are threats to global security.

Analysts say Russia has moved to upgrade its missile systems to counter the US shield, which Moscow sees as an attempt to undermine its nuclear deterrent. Washington insists the shield is far too small to defend against Russia and is meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran.

"At 7:05 p.m. (1505 GMT) the test warheads hit their targets," a defence ministry official said, quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti. "The launch and flight of the rocket went according to plan."

The test came three weeks after Russia test-fired an intercontinental Topol RS-12M missile, also designed to avoid detection by missile-defence systems.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised a "military response" to a US-Polish agreement last month to set up the US interceptor missiles.

A Russian general was later quoted as saying Russia could aim intercontinental missiles at the sites.

US-Russia relations recently hit a post Cold War low after Moscow sent tanks into neighbouring Georgia in what it said was a bid to protect its citizens in the breakaway region of South Ossetia from a Georgian attack.

Washington sharply condemned both the incursion and Moscow's decision to recognize South Ossetia and fellow rebel Georgian region Abkhazia as independent.

In the wake of the war in Georgia, Russia's government has set the redevelopment of the Russian armed forces as a priority. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said defence spending would grow 27 percent in 2009.

The Bulava missile, which has a range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles), was first tested successfully in December 2005.

It is the sea-based version of the Topol-M, designed to be fired from Moscow's new Borei class of submarines.

[Source: AFP, Moscow, 18Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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