Russia is to attempt to maintain its nuclear arsenal, with its security council clearing of the acquisition of a new generation of air-launched missiles for both the Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear H and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, as part of an overhaul of the country's strategic weapons.

The strategic weapons upgrade projects were approved as part of the overall procurement budget on 3 July, according to Russian press reports. The security council, chaired by President Boris Yeltsin, considered Russia's nuclear weapons projects to 2010.

Alongside the air-launched cruise missile, the council approved the procurement of 350- 400 land-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the development of the "Bark" submarine-launched ballistic missile intended to arm the "Yuri Dolgorukiy" ballistic missile submarine now under construction.

The cruise missile programme is most likely to be the Raduga Kh-101, the successor to its Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent), now deployed on the Tu-95MS and Tu-160. Development of the Kh-101 is thought to be near completion. Raduga has so far refused to release any details of the project.

Source: Flight International