Russia puts submarine trials on hold after Bulava failure

A Bulava missile that was shot from the White Sea on Friday malfunctioned and fell down in the Arctic Ocean.

Trials of Russia’s two newest nuclear-powered submarines are put on hold following an unsuccessful launch of a Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Friday.


A Bulava SLBM was fired toward the Kura test site in Kamchatka during state trials of the “Alexander Nevsky” nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea on Friday. This was the first time the submarine launched a missile. On the second minute of the flight the rocket experienced a malfunction in one of its systems and fell down somewhere in the Arctic Ocean, RIA Novosti reports, citing a source in the Ministry of Defense.

Test launches of the Bulava have been experiencing significant problems. Of the 19 or 20 test launches that have been done since 2004 eight have been officially declared unsuccessful. However, some analysts suggest that in reality the number of failures is considerably higher. A commission led by the Russian Navy’s commander-in-chief, Admiral Vladimir Chirkov, is looking into the causes of the latest failed launch.

The day after the failed launch, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu ordered to halt state trials of the Borey-class “Alexander Nevsky” and “Vladimir Monomakh” submarines, designed to carry Bulava, and to hold five additional launches of the troubled SLBM.

The next five test launches will be conducted from the world’s largest nuclear-powered submarine, the nearly forty years old Typhoon class “Dmitry Donskoy”, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes. The submarine has been rebuilt as a test platform for the Bulava missile and was the only vessel testing the missile system from 2004 until the first-built Borey-class submarine “Yury Dolgoruky” launched its first missile in June 2011.

The “Alexander Nevsky” submarine was expected to be handed over to the Navy on November 15, while the other Borey-class sub, the “Vladimir Monomakh”, was planned to join the fleet in mid-December. However, the commissioning of both of those submarines depends on the success of the Bulava test launch, and it is now uncertain when the vessels will be taken into service.

Sevmash Shipyard, where the submarines have been constructed, does not mention anything about the failed missile launch on its web site. According to the shipyard “Aleksander Nevsky” has returned to the yard after “successfully completing all assigned tasks and fully meeting all standards”.