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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Russian strategic sub recalled for inspection

One of Russia's premier nuclear submarines, slated to carry its next generation of strategic missiles, has been called back from sea trials, possibly delaying deployment, a top weapons designer said on Monday.

The Yuri Dolgoruky, Russia's first Borei-class submarine, was designed to carry the nuclear-capable Bulava intercontinental missiles, which the Kremlin hopes to make the cornerstone of its arsenal over the next decade.

"Right now the cruiser is returning to the shop. I think the work will last half a year," Yuri Solomonov, a top engineer at Moscow's weapons design Institute of Thermotechnics, told a news conference.

The Yuri Dolgoruky had been undergoing sea trials and was expected to go into service in the first half of 2011, and its recall to the dock for further inspections will likely delay its adoption into service by the navy.

The multi-billion dollar project is the most ambitious in the Russian fleet's post-Soviet history, but has been repeatedly delayed by a string of unsuccessful Bulava missile launches. Seven out of 14 test launches have failed.

The Borei submarine has been eyed to restore the glory of Russia's once-powerful fleet, eroded by lack of funding and new technology since the fall of the Soviet Union.

"The situation with the cruiser is difficult," Solomonov said.

"If the problems are eliminated, then the 15th launch of the Bulava will be carried out on board the submarine. If not, then it will take place on board the Dmitry Donskoy," submarine, he added.

Solomonov did not elaborate and officials at the submarine shipyard Sevmash were not available for comment.

The second Borei-class submarine Alexander Nevsky has started dock trials, but has not yet been tested at sea. (source reuters)