Russian missile test fails, visible in Norway

Russian missile test fails, visible in Norway

Thirteenth failure

Russian missile test fails, visible in Norway

A strange light phenomenon is sighted in the night sky above parts of northern Norway early on Wednesday, after Russia test-fired its Bulava intercontinental missile. REUTERS

The Bulava intercontinental missile has been billed as Russia’s newest technological breakthrough to support its nuclear deterrent, but the repeated test failures are an embarrassment for the Kremlin.

The missile failed in its thirteenth test on Wednesday morning, Vedomosti daily reported, quoting a source in the military-industrial complex.

“The rocket’s third stage failed,” Kommersant quoted an unnamed official in Russia’s defence industry as saying.

Norwegian experts reported sighting of phenomena in the atmosphere near the White Sea, where Bulava rockets were fired earlier, the newspapers reported.

Russia’s REN-TV showed footage of a spiral of white light, which it said was taken on Wednesday in Norway. The footage also showed a bright white light with a long blue tail on the horizon.

Of 11 previous tests that have been openly reported, at least six have been unsuccessful, including a test on July 15 when a Bulava self-destructed after a malfunction during the first stage of its flight from the White Sea.

Later, media reports said there had also been an attempt to launch the Bulava in October but it was put off at the last moment due to a technical glitch. The 37-tonne, 12-metre intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the Bulava-30 inside the Russian military, is capable of carrying multiple warheads to the distances of up to 8,000 km. Some sources say the Bulava can carry up to six warheads, others say up to 10.

The Kremlin has touted the missile as a unique weapon capable of breaching any air defence and a way to bolster the country’s once mighty submarine fleet.

The test failures have convinced a growing number of analysts — and even senior navy officers — that the Bulava is fundamentally doomed and that it would be cheaper and safer to start from scratch on a new project.