The nuclear warheads for Russia’s new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile have already been developed, missile designer Yury Solomonov has said.

“The nuclear payload will have been completed by the time the missiles are installed in the carrier submarine,” Solomonov said.

Russia will be conducting four Bulava test launches in the second half of December 2010 from the Borei-class nuclear-powered missile submarine Yury Dolgoruky.

According to government sources, the second stage of Bulava tests will start at the end of May 2011, if the launches in 2010 prove a success.

The Russian military expects the Bulava, along with Topol-M land-based ballistic missiles, to become the core of Russia’s nuclear triad.

The Bulava missile carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of more than 8,000km, according to RIA Novosti.