By Jon Dougherty
The Russian defense industry has been working on its development for years, and now it appears to be complete: An undersea drone capable of firing a nuclear-tipped weapon at incredibly high speeds.
A nuclear superweapon, if you will.
The very first Project 09852 submarine that has been described as a “special purpose” nuclear-powered Belgorod vessel has put to sea from the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, in northern Russia, according to Russian government news service TASS.
Included in the report was a photo of a large undersea vessel designed with a twin tail and wings.
The first Project 09852 submarine described as the “special purpose” nuclear powered Belgorod vessel was launched from Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk in northern Russia, the government news outlet TASS reported.
The report included a photograph of a large underwater vessel with a twin tail and wings.
TASS reported that the sub will be armed with a half-dozen nuclear drones that are designated “Kanyon” by the Pentagon and “Poseidon” by the Russians. President Vladimir Putin was reported to have watched the launch via satellite link.
The Russian news agency said that the new sub’s construction will be completed “afloat.” It’s not clear when sea trials will take place.
As TASS reported, the sub was decades in the making:
The nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod was initially being built under Project 949A ‘Antey.’ The submarine was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard on July 24, 1992. On December 20, 2012, it was laid down again under Project 09852. The exact operational characteristics of the special-purpose submarine have been classified and are unknown today. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported in November 2018 that the Belgorod sub’s crew had been formed.
Putin announced the development of the new submarine in his State of the Nation address in March 2018. He also said at the time the country had developed undersea drones capable of attaining high speeds.
The Pentagon has been following the sub’s development as well as its reported complement of nuclear-tipped drones.
We reported in July 2018 that Russia had released underwater footage of the drone, known then as a ‘doomsday’ device:
In September 2015, details about a sophisticated, nuclear weapons-carrying undersea drone Russia was developing emerged, shocking Western military experts and observers in the U.S. and throughout the West.
NationalSecurity.news reported that the UUV — unmanned underwater vehicle — could target American and European ports without detection:
According to officials, the developmental unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, when it is deployed, will be outfitted with megaton-class nuclear warheads that can destroy key ports used by U.S. nuclear-armed and powered submarines like Kings Bay, Georgia, and Puget Sound in Washington state.
The WFB noted that details surrounding the secret Russian drone sub are closely held within the U.S. government and intelligence community. The Pentagon has code-named the drone sub “Kanyon,” indicating that the sub is a structured arms program.
Here’s the video:
“At the risk of understating things, this project is bat-shit crazy,” writes Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy. “It harkens back to the most absurd moments of the Cold War, when nuclear strategists followed the logic of deterrence over the cliff and into the abyss. For his part, Putin seems positively nostalgic.”
And in February, we reported that the Poseidon could attack U.S. and NATO ports, as well as carrier strike groups, simultaneously while avoiding undersea defense networks:
Russia’s new nuclear-powered Poseidon unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) system will be able to autonomously avoid enemy defenses on its stealthy way to targets, according to a report by TASS.
The oceanic multipurpose system is designed to skirt U.S. and NATO undersea detection networks while delivering conventional or even nuclear weapons to targets.
“On its way to a target, Poseidon will be able to avoid and overcome any antisubmarine barriers and other enemy defense systems due to the fully automated operation system,” a Russian defense source told the state-owned news agency.
The source added that the UUV’s operational depth will exceed 1 km and that “new technical solutions will ensure a maximum speed of 200 km/hr.”
Since the Russian economy cannot support matching the United States dollar for dollar in terms of military spending and weapons development, Putin is putting his limited resources into asymmetric capabilities like the Kanyon/Poseidon instead.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10