Russia could drastically increase the number of launches of its embattled Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) to "many more than two" in 2010, a defense industry source said on Tuesday.
"There may be many more than two launches," the source said, commenting on some media reports which said only two Bulava launches were planned for 2010.
The latest launch of the missile, which Russia hopes will be a key element of its nuclear forces, from the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine in the White Sea ended in failure in early December 2009. Only five of 12 Bulava launches have been officially reported as being successful.
Though he said there was an adequate reserve of missiles for several test launches, the first tests this year are unlikely to take place before late May.
"With the White Sea iced over during the severely cold winter, the first launches of Bulava missiles are planned to take place in late May or early June, when ice packs start drifting," the source said.
The further development of the Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry experts, who have suggested that all efforts should be focused on the existing Sineva SLBM.
But the military has insisted there is no alternative to the Bulava and said the next test launch of the missile could be carried out as early as in January.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov denied in late December that Russia would abandon Bulava launches.
MOSCOW, January 12 (RIA Novosti)