Several items on the docket today:

If at first you don’t succeed…

bulava1From Ria Novosti comes word the much troubled Bulava SLBM will be tested five times in the coming year:

Despite five failures in 10 trials, Russia’s Defense Ministry is planning to complete a series of Bulava tests and put the ICBM into service by the end of 2009.

“Considering that we must ensure reliable performance characteristics of the [Bulava] missile, we have decided to raise the number of additional test launches to five, if everything goes well,” Vladimir Popovkin said.

Popovkin, who is visiting the Russian exposition at the IDEF-2009 arms show in Turkey, said that a faulty detail caused a test launch failure in December last year, and that the on-board systems would undergo additional ground testing in June-July prior to the next test launch.

At the same interview, it was revealed that sea trials of the Yury Dolgoruky, Russia’s first Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, are due to start in the summer, and two other Borey class nuclear submarines – the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh – are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard.  They are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Russia is planning to build a total of eight submarines of this class by 2015.

Some days you’re the bug – others the windscreen

su-35bmOne of Russia’s prototype Su-35’s (SU-35BM) was destroyed earlier this week during testing.  According to a plant spokesman, the prototype caught fire during take-off, but the pilot safely ejected:

“The accident occurred at 09.55 Moscow time [05.55 GMT] on Sunday at the Dzemgi airfield during the Su-35 prototype’s take-off,” Vitaly Tyulkin said, adding that the pilot ejected safely. “We will announce the details of the accident later in the day,” he said.

According to the news report in Ria Novosti, speculation is centering on a faulty fuel pump.  The aircraft was one of three Su-35 prototypes that incorporate improved engines and avionics (including the new Irbis-E AESA radar allowing automatic detection and tracking of up to 30 targets and engaging up to 8 of those) with the proven SU-27 airframe to  create what is billed as a “4++ gen fighter with 5th generation features.”  The third prototype had been recently added to the program in hopes of speeding up test and development flights to 160 or so a month and stay ontrack for deliveries to the Russian air force, Malaysia and Algeria among others.

Aircraft carriers – everyone wants them it seems; India, China and now Russia talks about new plans:

kuznetsov-aftA deputy minister for defense procurements, Vladimir Popovkin was quoted on a recent trip abroad as saying that final plans for the next generation of new Russian aircraft carrier will be finalized sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe.  Nuclear-powered and with an expected displacement of close to 60K metric tons (for comparison, the Kuznetsov is about 55K metric tons), the new carrier is expected to host new fixed- and rotary wing aircraft (ed. think a hummerinski will be amongst them this time? – SJS) to include a fifth generation fighter to replace the SU-33/MiG-29K currently employed.  In one interesting note that hints at the possible configuration, Vice Adm. Anatoly Shlemov, the head of defense contracts at the United Shipbuilding Corporation noted that unlike past carriers, the new one would not be armed with cruise missiles as “that’s not part of it’s job description…”  Cost is estimated at $4 billion.

While the next item may seem surprising, when one considers Turkey already deploys Russian-made anti-tank and has cooperated with the Chinese on SRBMs, it seems less so:

s-400_launchAccording to Ria Novosti, Turkey has approached Russia regarding purchase of the S-400:

“Turkey has expressed a strong interest in buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia,” said Anatoly Aksenov, a high-level adviser to the head of Russian arms export firm Rosoboronexport.  “We have explained to Turkish officials that S-400 is not just a simple air defense system but an element of strategic missile defenses, which can be placed in one country but protect the airspace over a number of neighboring countries,” said a source who accompanied Aksenov as part of the Russian delegation to this year’s International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul.

The prospect of this sale raises questions on any one of a number of fronts.  As Aksenov points out, the range of the S-400 is enough to provide defense to more than just the deploying nation.  Given that there is no love lost between the Turks and Greeks, especially where Cyprus is involved, there may be something there (i.e., protection of Turk interests on Cyprus and in the Aegean).  The same with Syria – no love lost there either.  A more likely answer may lay to the east and southeast – towards one country (Israel) which has demonstrated an ability for long-range airstrikes that may have violated Turk airspace as well as an unacknowledged regional nuclear strike capability with its Jericho II MRBMs.  Further to the east is another country that appears bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and certainly is working hard to develop and deploy a long-range missile system to deliver the weapons when able.  The recent successful Safir SLV launch certainly imputes a nascent IRBM capability to Iran.  Given the S-400’s alternate role as part of a strategic (i.e., regional) missile defense system, Turkey may well be seeking an indigenous capability that will not rely on the US (which has been very busy in cooperative efforts with Israel to develop and build a multi-tiered BMD system for the protection of Israel) and provide protection from Israeli OR Iranian attack.  To be sure, if Turkey goes through with the purchase, it would make it difficult to integrate with one of the US regional systems coming online – THAAD or land-based SM-3, for example.

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