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The number of test launches for Russia's Bulava
The number of test launches for Russia's Bulava ICBM will be increased from three or four to at least five next year, a senior Navy official said on Tuesday.

The intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of breaching anti-missile defense systems, failed a test launch from a submarine earlier on Tuesday.

"In connection with today's less than successful test launch, the overall number of Bulava test-launches in 2009 will be increased from three to four to a minimum of five," the official said adding that telemetry and trajectory measurements of the latest launch would be analyzed before the end of this year.

A source at the Belomorsk naval base said earlier in the day that the submerged launch from the Dmitry Donskoi strategic nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea, off Russia's northwest coast, had been unsuccessful. The missile had been targeting the Kura firing range in Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka region.

"The launch was a failure," the official said. "The crew performed well. The missile left the tube, but went off course due to a malfunction after the first stage separation."

A naval commission will investigate the cause of the failure, Navy spokesman Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

The latest test launch was Bulava's 10th, five of which have ended in failure.

The previous test of the Bulava missile took place on November 28. It was launched from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea, effectively engaging its designated target on the Kamchatka Peninsula about 6,700 kilometers (4,200 miles) east of Moscow.

Russia earlier planned to adopt the new Bulava for service with the Navy in 2009. But a senior Navy official said earlier this month that several more test launches would be conducted next year before there was a final decision on the missile entering service.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30), carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads and having a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles), is designed for deployment on Borey-class Project 955 nuclear-powered submarines.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said while he was president that the missile would be a key component of Russia's nuclear forces.

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