Russia successfully tested its latest Bulava intercontinental nuclear missile Wednesday amid rising tensions with NATO over the conflict in Ukraine. The nearly 37-ton missile was launched from Russia’s new submarine, the Vladimir Monomakh, as part of its sea trials. Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said a total of five test launches are planned.
The Vladimir Monomakh, named after a medieval prince, fired the inter-continental ballistic missile from the White Sea near Russia’s border with Finland and hit its target nearly 3,500 miles away on the Kamchatka peninsula north of Japan. The Russian Navy's head, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, was aboard the Vladimir Monomakh for the launch.
The Borei-class Vladimir Monomakh can carry up to 16 Bulava missiles, which can each carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. The Bulava missiles have a range of 5,000 miles and can reportedly cause a blast 100 times larger than the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Bulava system has been plagued with troubles, including at least eight unsuccessful test-fires. Borei-class submarines have to successfully test fire Bulava missiles to be accepted by the Russian Navy.
NATO leaders have accused Russia of invading Ukraine and stirring unrest in the ethnic Russian Ukrainian population. Pro-Russian separatists in the east have been battling the Ukrainian military for more than five months, hoping to secede from Ukraine and join its larger neighbor.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin took control Wednesday of Russia's Military Industrial Commission, the body in charge of making defense orders and ensuring the implementation of those contracts. Putin wants to shift defense-related production and development to the domestic market.