Putin’s Submarine Armada Deploys ‘Bulava’ Missiles That Can Hit Any Target  

Russia has officially adopted the troubled but eventually successful Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, arming its new Borey-class nuclear subs with up to 16 missiles each capable of carrying 6-10 maneuverable nuclear warheads and striking targets around the globe.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) “Bulava,” developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT), has been adopted by the Armed Forces of Russia (RF). MIT’s chief designer, Yuri Solomonov, announced this on May 14.

“On May 7 of this year, a decree was signed on the adoption of the missile complex ‘Bulava’ into service,” TASS quoted Solomonov as saying.

The R-30 “Bulava” is intended for arming strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) of projects 9550, 9551, and 9552 “Borei” and “Borei-M.” Tests were also conducted on the modernized submarine TK-208 “Dmitry Donskoy” of project 941 “Akula.”

All the Russian media sources claim that the missile has three stages, with the first two being solid-fueled. There are two viewpoints on the third stage: a solid-fuel stage and a liquid-fuel stage. Arguments favoring the third stage of liquid fuel include the ability to maneuver in the last stages of the flight path. “Bulava” is capable of carrying  6 to 10  independently guided nuclear warheads, each with a yield of 100-150 kilotons. This SLBM boasts a maximum effective range of 8,500-10,000 km and a GLONASS-based digital inertial navigation system. These warheads can maneuver in yaw and pitch. It is said to possess a system for defeating the enemy’s missile defense system. 

The information concerning the “Bulava” missile’s nuclear warheads is inconsistent. According to certain data, the principle behind their implementation has shifted. Previously, ballistic missiles would “scatter” warheads over the target. The “Bulava” missile, on the other hand, employs the “cluster munition” principle. Flight tests of the R-30 “Bulava” missile were tough, with a high rate of failures. At one time, there was even talk of stopping the development.

Nonetheless, following the improvement of certain onboard systems and increased quality control during assembly, a series of successful launches were carried out, and the missile was approved into service in 2013. The Votkinsk Plant is involved in serial manufacture. Modifications of the R-30 “Bulava” missile, known as the “Bulava-M” and “Bulava-47,” have been mentioned in open sources. However, this information is unreliable. 

In a significant milestone, the new nuclear submarine cruiser, ‘Emperor Alexander III,’ successfully conducted a test launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile ‘Bulava’ from the White Sea in November 2023. This launch, part of the final stage of the state testing program, demonstrated the missile’s reliability and effectiveness.

In February 2024, the Russian Navy received the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine “Knyaz Pozharsky.” This is the fifth nuclear submarine of the 955A “Borei-A” project. The submarines are armed with 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles, “Bulava,” and six torpedo tubes.

The Borey project was conceived as a replacement for the aging Soviet strategic submarines of the Akula and Dolphin classes. It represents an entirely new concept with many differences from the technology of previous generations. 

The first Borey-class submarine, Yuri Dolgoruky, was designed during the Cold War, but construction began only in 1996 and was commissioned only in 2013. Due to design changes during the construction delay, a new subclass, designated ‘Borey-A,’ has emerged. These ships are slightly larger and have even more advanced technology. In August 2021, Russia began the construction of two new Borei-A class submarines.

The submarine, which has a displacement of twenty-four thousand tons, can reach speeds of up to thirty-three knots, which is twice as fast as its predecessors from Project 941 “Shark.” 

Once all ten Boreys are delivered to the Russian Navy by 2027, they will be the backbone of Russia’s navy nuclear deterrence. Some will replace the Delta-III subs in the Pacific Fleet and the Delta-IV subs sailing with the Northern Fleet. 

The Russian Navy plans to deploy Borey-class submarines in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. They will hide these in the waters and wait in the wings.

The history of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering is a testament to the Soviet Union’s commitment to post-war rocketry. It began with a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, approved on May 13, 1946, which was the main document determining the development of domestic rocketry. This resolution established the Research Institute of Powdered Reactive Projectiles (NII-1) of the Ministry of Agricultural Machinery. On March 6, 1966, it was renamed as the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT). Under Solomonov’s leadership in recent years, MIT has developed, among others, the ground-based and sea-based ICBMs’ Topol-M,’ ‘Yars,’ and ‘Bulava.’


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