Tags: Missile | Failures | Mar | Russia's | Ambitious | Nuclear | Drill

Missile Failures Mar Russia's Ambitious Nuclear Drill

Thursday, 19 February 2004 12:00 AM

The exercise, called "Security 2004," was marred by two missile launch failures in the Barents Sea over two consecutive days.

President Vladimir

Their development was not aimed at the United States, Putin said, adding that he had informed President Bush of the new weapons, intended to "ensure Russia's strategic security" for a long time.

The mishaps began Tuesday, when Putin boarded a Northern Fleet Command submarine to observe the drill first-hand.

He was to have witnessed the launch by another submarine, Novomoskovsk, of two SS-N-23 missiles, which were to have landed in the Russian Far East, but it failed to take place.

Media reports said the commander of the Novomoskovsk detected a malfunction in the missile system and decided to abort the launch.

In another incident Wednesday, another SS-N-23 missile, fired from the submarine, Karelia, failed to hit an intended target, self-destructing instead about 90 seconds after launch.

Other parts of the exercise were reportedly more successful, including the testing of an SS-19 Stiletto ICBM in Kazakhstan and a satellite launch in northern Russia.

The Northern Fleet sought to play down the reported incidents, but a former commander of the fleet's nuclear submarine division, Adm. Eduard Baltin, said Russia had failed to demonstrate that its nuclear forces were combat ready.

Attributing the failures to military leadership shortcomings and underfunding, he said the Russian navy was slowly dying.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst, said it had been irresponsible to go ahead with the Karelia launch of the same type of missile involved in the earlier failure, before the previous incident had been investigated.

Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental organization specializing in Russian nuclear issues, said the dilapidated infrastructure and weapon systems of the nuclear arsenal were cause for concern.

"Each time the Northern Fleet goes to sea for an exercise, fingers around Russia and surrounding nations remain crossed in the hope that no accident will befall the fleet," said Bellona's Igor Kudrik.

The Barents Sea is the area where the Northern Fleet's Kursk nuclear submarine sank in August 2000, killing all 118 aboard.

The war games included testing of the missile defense system protecting Moscow, but the state of the system also drew some criticism.

Former Air Force commander Gen. Anatoly Kornukov conceded Wednesday that the existing missile defense systems were obsolete due to inadequate funding.

The system meant to protect Moscow still relies on the same weapons used decades ago, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

Another part of the maneuvers involved the test-firing by Tupolev-95 and Tupolev-160 Blackjack long-range strategic bombers of cruise missiles over Russia's Arctic regions.

The supersonic Tu-160, designed to strike distant targets with up to 12 missiles, were grounded after a crash last fall, and flew again for the first time last month.

This month's war games were widely seen here as aimed at further boosting Putin's popularity ahead of presidential elections March 14.

The style and size of the exercise, and the talk of "aggressors," recalled the style of Soviet-era maneuvers.

Analysts noted that the drill suggested that Russia still considers a conflict with the U.S. to be a possibility.

Last October, Putin said that Russia retained the right to deliver pre-emptive military strikes, "if this practice continues to be used around the world."

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The exercise, called "Security 2004," was marred by two missile launch failures in the Barents Sea over two consecutive days. President Vladimir Their development was not aimed at the United States, Putin said, adding that he had informed President Bush of the new...
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2004-00-19
Thursday, 19 February 2004 12:00 AM
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