RSM-56 Bulava

Last updated
RSM-56 Bulava [1]
Bulava SLBM launched by Yuri Dolgoruky submarine (cropped).jpg
Bulava launched from submarine Yuri Dolgoruky on 28 October 2011
Place of originRussia
Service history
In service2018–present [2]
Used by Russian Navy
Production history
Designer Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology
Manufacturer Votkinsk Plant State Production Association
Mass36.8 t (36.2 long tons; 40.6 short tons)
Length11.5 m (38 ft) (without warhead)
12.1 m (40 ft) (launch container)
Diameter2 m (6 ft 7 in) (missile)
2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) (launch container)
Warhead6-10 × 100-150 kt MIRVs [3] [4] [5]

EngineThree stage solid and liquid head stage
PropellantSolid propellant and liquid fuel
8,000-8,300 km [6] ≥ 9,300 [7] (> 9 - 10+k km)[ citation needed ]
Inertial guidance, possibly with Astro-inertial guidance and/or GLONASS update
Accuracy120-350 meters [6]
Borei-class submarines
Typhoon-class submarine Dmitri Donskoi (as a testbed) [8]

The RSM-56 Bulava (Russian : Булава, lit. "mace", NATO reporting name SS-NX-30 or SS-N-32, GRAU index 3M30, 3K30) is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) developed for the Russian Navy and deployed in 2013 on the new Boreiclass of ballistic missile nuclear submarines. It is intended as the future cornerstone of Russia's nuclear triad, and is the most expensive weapons project in the country. [9] The weapon takes its name from bulava , a Russian word for mace. [10]


Designed by Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, development of the missile was launched in the late 1990s as a replacement for the R-39 Rif solid-fuel SLBM. [11] The Project 955/955A Borei-class submarines carry 16 missiles per vessel. Development and deployment of the Bulava missile within the Russian Navy is not affected by the enforcement of the new START treaty. [12]

A source in the Russian defense industry told TASS on June 29, 2018 that the D-30 missile system with the R-30 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile had been accepted for service in the Russian Navy after its successful four-missile salvo launch tests in 2018. [13]


A Bulava tested in June 2017. Yuri Dolgorukiy successfully launched a Bulava ballistic missile (cropped).jpg
A Bulava tested in June 2017.

The Bulava missile was developed by Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology under the leadership of chief designer Yury Solomonov. Although it utilizes some engineering solutions used for the recent RT-2PM2 Topol-M ICBM, the new missile has been developed virtually from scratch. [14] Bulava is both lighter and more sophisticated than the Topol-M.[ citation needed ] The two missiles are expected to have comparable ranges, and similar CEP and warhead configurations.[ citation needed ] Bulava has a declared START throw weight of 1150 kg to 9,500 kilometers.[ citation needed ]

The missile has three stages; the first and second stages use solid fuel propellant, while the third stage uses a liquid fuel to allow high maneuverability during warhead separation.[ citation needed ] The missile can be launched from an inclined position, allowing a submarine to fire them while moving.[ citation needed ] It has a low flight trajectory, and due to this could be classified as a quasi-ballistic missile. [15] It is rumored to possess advanced missile defense evasion capabilities.[ citation needed ]

Borei-class submarines carrying Bulava missiles are expected to be an integral part of the Russian nuclear triad until 2040.[ citation needed ]

Bulava can be loaded on TEL road mobile launchers, on railway BZhRK trains and other various launchers.[ citation needed ]

Development history


In the 1990s, Russia had two submarine-launched ICBMs, the solid-fuel R-39 and the liquid-fuel R-29 Vysota family, both developed by the Makeyev Design Bureau. A new missile, designated R-39UTTH Bark was under development to replace the R-39. The Bark was planned to become the only submarine-launched ballistic missile of the Russian nuclear arsenal. [16] However, its development was plagued with problems, and after three test failures the Bark programme was canceled in 1998. Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology was now tasked with developing a new advanced missile. The institute promised that it would able to quickly develop a new naval missile based on its recent Topol-M land-based ICBM. [17]

The new missile would be deployed per 16 missiles on the Borei I (Project 955) and Borei II (Project 955A) class submarines. [18] [19] As the new submarines would not be ready in time for flight tests, the Typhoon-class submarine Dmitry Donskoy was upgraded to carry Bulavas. [20]

Key people involved in the decision to develop Bulava included the institute director and Bulava's chief designer Yury Solomonov; director of the Defense Ministry's Fourth Central Research Institute, Major-General Vladimir Dvorkin; Navy Commander, Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov; Defense Minister, Marshal Igor Sergeyev; Economics Minister Yakov Urinson and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. [17]

First tests

The missile completed the first stage launch-tests at the end of 2004. Although it was initially planned to base the Bulava design on the Topol-M, the first tests showed that the new missile was completely different in terms of appearance, dimensions and warhead lay-out. [17] It was later acknowledged that the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology had developed Bulava virtually from scratch, reusing only a few engineering solutions from the Topol-M. [14]


The missile's flight test programme was problematic. Until 2009, there were 6 failures in 13 flight tests and one failure during ground test, blamed mostly on substandard components. This led to the missile's chief designer, Yury Solomonov resigning from his post in July 2009. [21] Aleksandr Sukhodolskiy was appointed as the new general designer of sea-based ballistic missiles at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology; Solomonov however retained his post of general designer of land-based missiles. [22]

After a failure in December 2009, further tests were put on hold and a probe was conducted to find out the reasons for the failures. Testing was resumed on 7 October 2010 with a launch from the Typhoon-class submarine Dmitri Donskoi in the White Sea; the warheads successfully hit their targets at the Kura Test Range in the Russian Far East. [23] Seven launches have been conducted since the probe, all successful. On 28 June 2011, the missile was launched for the first time from its standard carrier, Borei-class submarine Yury Dolgorukiy, and on 27 August 2011 the first full-range (over 9,000 km (5,600 mi)) flight test was conducted. After this successful launch, the start of serial production of Bulava missiles in the same configuration was announced on 28 June 2011. A successful salvo launch on 23 December 2011 concluded the flight test programme. The missile was officially approved for service on 27 December 2011, [24] and was reported to be commissioned aboard Yuri Dolgorukiy on 10 January 2013. The missile did however continue to fail in the summer of 2013 and was not operational as of November 2013. [25] The Bulava became operational aboard Yury Dolgorukiy as of October 2015. [26] However, recent developments put this in question. In November 2015, the submarine Vladimir Monomakh fired two missiles while submerged. One of the missiles self-destructed during the boost phase and the other failed to deliver its warheads to the specified target. After being sent back to the manufacturer, it was determined that the missiles failed due to manufacturing defects. [27]

After two successful tests in June 2017 and May 2018, a source in the Russian defense industry told TASS on June 29, 2018 that the D-30 missile system with the R-30 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile had been accepted for service in the Russian Navy. [13]

Explanations for the failures

Chief designer Solomonov blamed the failures on the poor state of the Russian defense industry and problems in the design-technology-production chain.

"Sometimes [the problem] is poor-quality materials, sometimes it is the lack of necessary equipment to exclude the 'human' factor in production, sometimes it is inefficient quality control"

According to Solomonov, the industry is unable to manufacture 50 of the necessary components for the missile, forcing designers to improvise and look for alternative solutions, which seriously complicates the testing process. Solomonov further said that despite the failures, there was no need for changes in the design. [28]

Sergei Kovalyov, the designer of three generations of Russian strategic submarines said that due to lack of funding, the developers had been unable to conduct test launches from a floating pad to test the underwater segment of the missile's trajectory. He also said that there were insufficient funds to conduct ground-based test launches. Both types of testing had been standard procedure during Soviet times. Kovalyov also criticised the poor quality of missile components provided by a large number of sub-contractors and the absence of military representatives at manufacturing plants. [29]

The 2009 Norwegian spiral anomalies, a temporary strange light phenomenon over vast areas of northern Norway have been explained with a failed stage of a Bulava missile test. [30] [31] According to a spokesman, "The missile's first two stages worked as normal, but there was a technical malfunction at the next, third, stage of the trajectory". [32] [33]

Effects on the military

Due to the delays in Bulava's development, the launch of the fourth Borei-class submarine, Svyatitel Nikolay, was pushed back. [34] Russia was planning to build eight of Borei-class submarines by 2015. [35]

Only one Typhoon-class submarine, Dmitry Donskoy, was modified to launch Bulavas. The Bulava program is the most expensive weapons project in Russia. [9]

Debate about the program

Despite continued test failures, the Russian defense minister, Anatoliy Serdyukov, has stated that the project will not be abandoned. "We will certainly not give up the Bulava. I think that despite all the failures, the missile will fly," he said in an interview in late December 2009. The Russian military has been adamant that there is no alternative to Bulava. [36]

There has been discussions among analysts about the possibility of re-equipping the Borei-class submarines with the more reliable liquid-propellant R-29RMU Sineva missiles. The Sineva is an upgrade of the R-29RM Shtil and entered service in 2007. According to RIA Novosti military analyst Ilya Kramnik, this would have been an attractive option, given that the less advanced Sineva missiles already have "virtually the same impressive specifications as the Trident II (D5) SLBMs wielded by the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy." However, the work needed to redesign and modify the Borei-class submarines to carry Sinevas is regarded as too expensive. [37]


After a launch failure in December 2009 caused by a defective engine nozzle and which led to the 2009 Norwegian spiral anomaly, further tests were put on hold and a review of the missile program was initiated. The results of the probe were delivered to the Russian government in May 2010. [38]

2010 tests

Testing was resumed for the first time after the probe on 7 October 2010. The missile was launched from the submerged Dmitry Donskoy, in the White Sea, and the warheads successfully hit their targets at the Kura testing range, 380 kilometres (240 mi) to the north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Russian Far East. [23] The launch reportedly took place at 07:15 UTC. [39] The missile travelled over 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi), and the rocket's trajectory was within the normal parameters, according to a Navy official. [40]

The second test launch in 2010 from Dmitry Donskoy was set to 29 October [5] and was successful. [41]

The next test to be performed from Yuriy Dolgorukiy was initially planned to December 2010, but was postponed to mid-summer 2011 due to ice conditions in White Sea. [42]

Each of following new test missiles needed to be built under nearly identical conditions, in order to determine the cause of potential failures. [43]

2011 tests and deployment

Russian defense sources have stated that the Bulava missile will not enter service until it is 98-99% reliable. [44] According to the Russian Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov another six successful launches (one planned in 2010, other five in 2011) will be required before the missile could be commissioned. [45] After a successful test salvo launch in December 2011, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that the Bulava missile was ready and it would now be adopted for service with the Russian Navy. [46]

2012 tests and deployment

On August 2012 a high-ranking official of Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation said in 2012 Russia will test fire its Bulava missile only once, in November, specifically from the nuclear-powered submarine Alexander Nevsky. [47]

2013 deployment

Bulava was finally commissioned with its lead carrier Yuri Dolgorukiy on 10 January 2013. The official ceremony of raising the Russian Navy colors on the submarine was led by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. After another failed launch in September, Shoigu announced a pause in the state trials of the next two submarines and five more test launches.[ citation needed ] The entire production run of the missiles was then recalled for factory inspections. [48] Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov told reporters on Wednesday 20 November 2013: "The commission has completed its work. The causes have been determined. They are technological and are related to the production of the nozzle," Borisov told a roundtable meeting on state defense contracts. The cause of the failure does not call into question "the correctness of the production of the product in general," he said. The flaw that has been revealed has been corrected on the three remaining missiles in this batch, Borisov said. Borisov said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has made a decision to hold another five Bulava launches. "These launches will be planned next year," Borisov said. The intercontinental ballistic missile Bulava was launched at the Kura testing ground in Kamchatka during the state testing of the strategic nuclear submarine Alexander Nevsky in the White Sea on September 6. "The missile left the launch container, but its board system failed three minutes into the launch," the Russian Defense Ministry earlier said. [49]


RSM-56 Bulava launches
0124 June 2004FailureSurfaced Dmitriy Donskoi Solid-propellant engine exploded during the test.[ citation needed ]
0223 September 2004SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiEjection of a full mock-up of the Bulava missile from a submerged position.[ citation needed ]
0327 September 2005SuccessSurfacedDmitriy DonskoiFirst flight test. The missile flew for 14 minutes and covered a distance of 5,500 km (3,400 mi). Warheads hit all designated targets at the testing grounds.[ citation needed ]
0421 December 2005SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiAll targets at the Kura Missile Test Range were hit.[ citation needed ]
057 September 2006FailureSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiA glitch in the program caused the missile to deviate from set trajectory and fall into the sea before reaching the target.[ citation needed ]
0625 October 2006FailureSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiThe missile deviated from the trajectory, self-destructed and fell into the White Sea.[ citation needed ]
0724 December 2006FailureSurfacedDmitriy DonskoiMalfunction of the third-stage engine caused the missile to self-destruct.[ citation needed ]
0829 June 2007SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiWarheads hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range.[ citation needed ]
0918 September 2008SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiLaunch at 18:45, warheads hit target at 19:05.[ citation needed ]
1028 November 2008SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiThe first statements suggests that the test was a success.[ citation needed ]
1123 December 2008FailureSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiThe missile malfunctioned during firing of its third-stage and self-destructed on command. [50]
1215 July 2009FailureSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiThe missile self-destructed after a malfunction during the first-stage of its flight from the White Sea. [51]
139 December 2009FailureSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiThe missile test failed due to a malfunction in the third-stage engine.[ citation needed ] Notably caused the 2009 Norwegian spiral anomaly.
147 October 2010SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiTargets at the Kura Missile Test Range in the Russian Far East were successfully hit.[ citation needed ]
1529 October 2010SuccessSubmergedDmitriy DonskoiLaunch from the White Sea. Targets at the Kura Missile Test Range were hit successfully.[ citation needed ]
1627 June 2011SuccessSubmerged Yury Dolgorukiy First launch from standard missile carrier from the White Sea. Targets at the Kura Missile Test Range were hit successfully. [52]
1727 August 2011SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyMaximum flight range test, launch from the White Sea from a submerged position. Target at the Pacific Ocean was hit successfully.[ citation needed ]
1828 October 2011SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiySuccessful launch from the White Sea. Warheads hit target at the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka. [53]
1923 December 2011SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyA salvo launch involving two missiles. Warheads hit designated targets at the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka.[ citation needed ]
206 September 2013FailureSubmerged Alexander Nevsky A malfunction in one of its systems on the second minute of the flight.[ citation needed ]
219 September 2014SuccessSubmerged Vladimir Monomakh The missile was launched from a location off northwest Russia's White Sea and hit a designated target at the Kura Missile Test Range.[ citation needed ]
2229 October 2014SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyThe missile successfully hit all targets at the Kura Missile Test Range. [54]
2328 November 2014SuccessSubmergedAlexander NevskyAlexander Nevsky fired the missile from under water in the Barents Sea and it landed on a military training ground in Kamchatka, as planned. [55]
2415 November 2015Failure or successSubmergedVladimir MonomakhAccording to Pravda, one of the missiles self-destructed during the boost phase and the other demonstrated low accuracy. After being sent back to the manufacturer, it was determined that the missiles failed due to manufacturing defects. [56] Other sources state the two missiles were flown successfully and the warheads hit the designated targets at the Kura Missile Test Range. [57] [58]
2527 September 2016Partial SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyTwo missiles were launched, one successfully struck a designated target at the Kura Missile Test Range, another one self-destructed. [59]
2626 June 2017SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyWarheads of the Bulava missile performed a full cycle of the flight and successfully hit the designated targets at the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka. [60] [61]
2722 May 2018SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyFired a salvo of four missiles from submerged position. Tactical and technical characteristics and reliability of the strategic missile submarine Yury Dolgorukiy and the Bulava missile were confirmed. This was the first time Russia test-launched such number of SLBMs since the Operation Behemoth-2 on 6 August 1991. [62] [63]
2824 August 2019SuccessSubmergedYury DolgorukiyFired a Bulava missile from the Barents Sea as part of combat training. Warheads hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka. [64] [65]
2930 October 2019SuccessSubmerged Knyaz Vladimir Fired a Bulava missile from the White Sea from submerged position as part of submarine trials. Warheads hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka. [66] [67]
3012 December 2020SuccessSubmerged Vladimir Monomakh Fired a salvo of four missiles from submerged position. Warheads have hit targets at the Chiza Missile Test Range in Kanin peninsula. [68]


In October 2010 it was reported that 150-170 operational missiles would be built (124 active + reserve for training and tests). [69] After the successful launch on 27 June 2011, the Russian government announced the start of serial production of Bulava missiles. [70] On 10 January 2013, Bulava was adopted into experimental service with its lead carrier submarine Yuri Dolgorukiy. It was reported in June 2018 that the missile has been accepted for service by the Russian Navy after its successful test firings conducted in 2018. [2]


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Specifications comparison
Bulava R-30 Trident C4 Trident D5 M51 (missile) JL-2
Number of stages33333
Length of assembled missile without front section, m11.510.313.591213
Maximum diameter of missile airframe (without stabilizers, raceways, protruding elements), m21.882.112.32
Launch weight, tonnes36.832.358.55242
Total length of missile as a unit with launch canister (with front section), m12.1n/a13.58n/an/a
Throw weight, kg1,1501,5002,800n/an/a
Throw Weight (kg) Per Tonne31.2546.4447.86n/an/a
Warhead6-10 × 100-150 kt8 × 100 kt8 × 455 kt (Mk-5 RV); 14 × 90-100 kt (Mk-4/Mk-4A);
≥1 × 5-7 kt (W76-2)
6-10 × 100-110 kt1 × 1 Mt
Operational range, km8,000-10,0007,4007,840-12,0008,000-10,0007,200
Accuracy, CEP (meters)120-350229-50090-381 (Mk-4 RV, to be retired) [72] 150-200n/a
Navigation astro-inertial, GLONASS astro-inertialastro-inertial, GPS astro-inertial, Galileo astro-inertial, BeiDou
In service2018–present1979 - 20051990–present2010–present2015–present

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