Russia on Wednesday successfully test-fired for the third time its new RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile, designed to counter air defence systems like the controversial US missile shield.
The missile was fired from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia and hit targets on the Kamchatka Peninsula that juts into the Pacific Ocean 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) to the east, Russian news agencies reported.
“The targets that were set were reached. The tasks were fully carried out,” the commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces, Nikolai Solovtsov, was quoted as saying by Interfax.
“The deployment of the RS-24 missiles, which have a detachable warhead, strengthens the military options of the Russian missile forces in overcoming missile defence systems.”
Military spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin told Interfax that “the missile… was launched from a mobile launcher. This is the third test-firing of the RS-24 in the last two years.”
Russia in May 2007 first test-fired the RS-24, which the military has said is designed to overcome air-defence systems such as the controversial US missile shield planned for deployment in eastern Europe.
The second test, which was also successful, was in December 2007. Experts and Russian news agencies have said the missile is capable of carrying three nuclear warheads.
The new test comes after Moscow has repeatedly expressed its fury over US plans to place a missile defence radar system in the Czech Republic and linked interceptor missiles in Poland.
Both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have urged Barack Obama to drop the plans when he takes over the White House in January but the US president-elect has yet to reveal his intentions.
Medvedev said at the weekend that while the position of the administration of outgoing US President George W. Bush looked “extremely inflexible” then “the position of the president-elect looks more careful.”
Putin has said that if the new Obama administration was prepared to drop the plan then Moscow will drop the retaliatory measures it plans if the shield is implemented.
Earlier this month Moscow raised alarm in Western capitals by warning it could place missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, close to Poland, in response to the plan.
Russia has expressed grave opposition to bids by its neighbours Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO, the transatlantic military alliance whose original aim was to counter the Soviet Union.
The military has said the RS-24 is an entirely new missile which builds on the technologies of Russia’s Topol-M missile but has the novelty of multiple independently targetable warheads.
Russia has proudly emphasised that the RS-24 has been built using Russian technology alone whereas previous multiple warhead missiles came from Ukraine.