Russian press quotes a source in the industry as saying that the Bulava SLBM has been finally accepted for service. That was a long wait.

The work on the Bulava program started almost exactly 20 years ago. It was included in the plan that was approved in 1998, when Russia was struggling to find the way to maintain its strategic forces not much below the START II levels of 3500 warheads - at that point it was expected that START II will come into force. It wasn't an easy process and the MITT emerged with two projects in its portfolio - the Topol-M (which will later become Yars) ICBM and the Bulava SLBM. The R-39UTTH Bark SLBM project - a follow-up to R-39/SS-N-20 - was cancelled after three failed flight tests. Part of MITT's argument was that Bulava will use Topol-M technologies and therefore will be cheaper to produce.

At the time, there were plenty of skeptics who doubted that MITT can successfully build a sea-launched missile. To a certain extent the skeptics were right - as we can see it took 20 years for get the missile accepted for service. All in all, it took 32 flight tests to get to this point. I wouldn't be surprised if the navy still have their doubts about the missile. They seem to have insisted on an unprecedented* four-missile salvo launch, since Bulava didn't quite pass the test in (two-missile) salvo launches in 2015 and in 2016.

  • As it turns out, it's not unprecedented - in the R-39 missile test program, the Soviet Union conducted four four-missile salvo launches and a few two- and three-missile ones.