MOSCOW -- The Russian Navy on Friday successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile for a second time in as many months, proving its reliability following a troublesome development.
The Defense Ministry said the Alexander Nevsky nuclear submarine test-fired a Bulava missile from an underwater position in the Barents Sea. The missile's warheads reached designated targets at a testing range in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Bulava suffered many failures during a decade of tests, raising doubts about the fate of Russia's most expensive and ambitious weapons program since the Soviet collapse. But a series of recent launches has been successful and the Navy now has three Borei-class nuclear submarines armed with the Bulava.
Two of them, the Alexander Nevsky and the Yuri Dolgoruky, named after medieval Russian rulers, already have entered service. The third one has been completed and is waiting to be formally commissioned by the Navy. Overall, eight Borei-class submarines are set to be built.
Like the previous Bulava launch on Oct. 29 from the Yuri Dolgoruky, Friday's test was essential for confirming the capability of the missile, which Russia touted as a key part of its nuclear deterrent.
With Soviet-built nuclear submarines approaching the end of their lifetime, the Kremlin has made replacing them a top priority in the arms modernization program, which envisages spending 20 trillion rubles (more than $400 billion) on new weapons through 2020.
According to Russian media reports, the Bulava has a range of more than 8,000 kilometers (nearly 5,000 miles) and is capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads. Military officials have boasted about its ability to penetrate any prospective missile defense.