updated 6/28/2007 8:20:31 PM ET 2007-06-29T00:20:31

Russia said a new sea-based ballistic missile made its first successful test flight Thursday after several previous failures, in what was the country’s second major test of new rocket technology in a month.

Capt. Igor Dygalo, a spokesman for the Russian navy, told The Associated Press that the Bulava missile was fired from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi in northern Russia’s White Sea and hit its target on the Pacific peninsula of Kamchatka, about 4,200 miles east of Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin has hailed Bulava as a key component of Russia’s nuclear forces for years to come, saying it has the ability to penetrate any prospective missile defenses. However, three earlier tests in recent years failed, raising doubts about the missile.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, said a successful launch would be a good sign for Russian missile forces, but he said he had doubts because of the Bulava’s past track record and the military’s penchant for secrecy.

A Bulava test failure in December was not publicly announced, leaking out only in newspaper reports. Russian media speculated the military was trying to avoid embarrassing Sergei Ivanov, the former defense minister who is now a first deputy prime minister and widely considered a leading candidate to succeed Putin in next year’s presidential election.

The missile is being developed by Moscow-based Thermal Technology Institute, which designed the new ground-based Topol-M missile and had no previous experience in building submarine-based missiles.

According to Russian news reports, the Bulava is designed to have a range of 6,200 miles and carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads. It is expected to equip three new Borei-class nuclear submarines that are under construction.

Thursday’s test comes amid an aggressive Russian effort to upgrade its missile forces after years of underfunding and a lack of testing.

On May 29, the Strategic Rocket Force said it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple independent warheads. A “preliminary” test was also carried out of a tactical cruise missile that Ivanov said could fly farther than existing models.

Washington’s plan to deploy a ballistic missile defense system in eastern Europe has sparked increasingly belligerent comments from Putin and other Russian military and government officials, who say it will undermine Russian security.

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