Russia could conduct new sub-critical atomic tests on its nuclear arsenal at the old detonation site in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported on Friday, citing informed sources with the state energy company Rosatom.
Moscow is a signatory of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits the detonation of nuclear devices. However, the Kremlin has refused to pledge an end to sub-critical atomic experiments.
Separately, the first of a new generation of Russian ballistic missile submarines is ready to be inducted into the navy, ITAR-Tass reported on Monday.
The Yuri Dolgoruky is one of eight planned Borei-class submarines that are to form the core of Russia's sea-based nuclear deterrent once they are outfitted with the new Bulava ballistic missile.
"Sevmash [shipyard] specialists have removed all the shortcomings found by the standing commission for state acceptance of vessels, to which testifies the vessel’s inspection act, signed by Chief of the Main Staff of the Russian Navy Admiral Alexander Tatarinov," the shipyard said.
Elsewhere, different figures offered up by the Defense Ministry on the composition of its ICBM arsenal indicate the country's strategic missile forces are rapidly growing older, according to a separate Monday report by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
According to Strategic Missile Forces spokesman Col. Vadim Koval, "the share of modern missile systems in the Strategic Missile Forces amounts to about 25 percent now." However, toward the end of May, the head of the missile branch, Lt. Gen. Sergei Karakayev said, "In the last few years, the share of modern armament in our troops grew to 30 percent."
The Russian military has yet to give a reason behind the disparity in accounting.
Koval, though, in recent days said the Strategic Missile Forces has prioritized efforts to extend the lifespan of its deployed ICBMs. Occasional test-firings of the longest-serving silo-based RS-20 Voevoda and the RS-18 Stiletto, as well as the transportable RS-12M Topol, show the missiles remain reliable.
Russian academic Yuri Zaitsev, in an interview with Interfax, said two of Russia's three most critical strategic assets -- its sea-based RSM-52 heavy missile and missile launcher railcars are no longer active.
"The biggest concern of the United States has always been three Russian missile systems practically immune from missile defense. These are BZhRK missile trains, RSM-52 sea-based missiles and RS-20 heavy missiles," the Russian Engineering Academy adviser said. "Only RS-20 is still on duty now."
The incoming Bulava SLBM and the Topol-M ICBM do not make up for the lost strategic capabilities of the heavy missiles, he asserted.