Russian Ministry of Defense photo.
Russia has finished building its first batch of “nuclear-capable underwater drone” torpedoes nicknamed Poseidon, according to state-owned news agency TASS. According to TASS, Poseidon is meant to be used in Russia’s new nuclear-powered Belgorod submarine. Billed as an unstoppable super torpedo by both Putin and some Western news outlets, the Poseidon is another unknown and unproven Russian weapon.
Poseidon is NATO’s name for Russia’s Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System, a new kind of underwater drone capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. TASS, citing an anonymous source, said that the new weapon was finished and would soon be delivered to a Russian submarine.Little is actually known about the mysterious weapon and its capabilities. According to Russian sources and Western intelligence, it’s enormous. It weighs more than 200,000 pounds, has a diameter of around 6 feet, and a length of more than 60 feet. It’s so big that the Belgorod can only carry six of them. This would make it the largest torpedo ever developed and deployed by any country in the world.
The world first caught a glimpse of the Poseidon thanks to a 2015 leak that showed off the weapons the Kremlin planned to deploy with the Belgorod. The giant torpedo seems to be unwieldy, an enormous torpedo that uses a nuclear engine to carry it vast distances. Its size and nuclear signature might make it easy to track, but it would be hard to know until one was fired. It’s also important to note that though this weapon has been billed as capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, there’s no confirmation that the ones that have been produced are carrying one. Putin first revealed the torpedoes to the world during a 2018 presentation to the Federal Assembly, Russia’s legislative body. During the speech he announced the development of four new nuclear weapons and demonstrated their use by showing a CGI video of a nuke hitting Mar-a-Lago. Along with the Poseidon, Putin also teased the RS-28 “Satan II” Sarmat intercontinental-ballistic missile (ICBM), the Zircon hypersonic missile, and a nuclear powered cruise missile called the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.According to the Kremlin, work on these new nuclear weapons has borne fruit. It said it tested a launch of the Satan II in April, 2022. Earlier this month, it announced that it had deployed the Zircon hypersonic missile on a ship that planned to tour the world’s seas.The Skyfall and Poseidon have remained more mysterious and TASS provided no official confirmation from the Russian Ministry of Defense about the completion of the torpedo’s construction. When the Zircon was shipped out a few weeks ago, both Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced it publicly. Neither have recently mentioned the Poseidon or Skyfall.Both the Poseidon and Skyfall are said to use nuclear-powered engines to drive them. It’s a weapon idea that the U.S. also attempted to develop in the 1960s but abandoned after increasing concerns about, among other things, radioactive emissions caused by the engine. Unless Russia has developed a new kind of shielding for the Skyfall and Poeisden’s engines, there’s a chance the weapons will spew radioactive material in their wake once fired. This kind of uncontrolled spew was too much of a risk even for the Americans at the height of nuclear development.In 2019, a nuclear accident at a Russian facility in the Arctic killed 7 people. Moscow claimed the accident was the result of a small nuclear reactor explosion. The evidence, however, indicated that the Kremlin was testing a Skyfall missile and something had gone wrong. Now, it appears a similar weapon, with similar issues, will soon be deployed on a Russian submarine.