Russia test-launches nuclear-capable missile from new submarine

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The Russian military on Sunday reported that it successfully test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to carry nuclear warheads from a new nuclear submarine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Imperator Alexander III strategic missile cruiser fired the Bulava missile from an underwater position in Russia’s northern White Sea, and hit a target in the far-eastern region of Kamchatka. It wasn’t immediately clear from the statement when the test launch occurred.

The missile is designed to carry up to six nuclear warheads, Reuters reported, citing the Federation of American Scientists. The Imperator Alexander III is one of the new Borei-class nuclear submarines that carry 16 Bulava missiles each and are intended to serve as the core naval component of the nation’s nuclear forces in the coming decades. 

The report comes as tensions are soaring between Russia and the West over the fighting in Ukraine. Adding to those tensions, President Vladimir Putin last week signed a bill revoking Russia’s ratification of a global nuclear test ban in a move that Moscow said was needed to establish parity with the United States.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, launching a ballistic missile is the final test for the vessel, after which a decision should be made on its induction into the fleet.

The Russian navy currently has three Borei-class submarines in service, one more is finishing tests and three others are under construction, the Defense Ministry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has increased military spending since rising to power in 1999, according to Reuters. He has been working toward rebuilding Russia’s nuclear and conventional forces since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. With tensions between Moscow and the West at their worst since the Cold War, Putin last month held out the possibility that Russia could resume nuclear testing for the first time in more than three decades. 

‘Relations are at zero – or I would say below zero,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview aired on Sunday of U.S.-Russian relations, though adding that leaders from both nations would have to resume contact at some point. ‘Putin has repeatedly stated that he is ready for any contacts.’ 

Russian media has reported that the Kremlin is planning to build a total of 10 to 12 Borei-class submarines to be divided between the Northern and Pacific fleets. 

State media disclosed three more Borei-class submarines are being built: the Knyaz Pozharsky, the Dmitry Donskoy and the Knyaz Potemkin, and two additional boats are also planned.

Russian sources told Reuters that the Imperator Alexander III is the seventh of the Russian Project 955 Borei (Arctic Wind) class nuclear submarines and the fourth of the modernized Borei-A variant. Sources say they are known in NATO as the Dolgoruky class of submarines, after the first boat – the Yuri Dolgoruky – became the first new generation of nuclear submarine launched by Russia since the Cold War.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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