The Russian Navy is all set to test-launch its ‘doomsday weapon’, an underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, which according to experts, is “133 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima”.
The weapon was unveiled by President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of developing six next-generation strategic weapons for the Russian Federation, including Burevestnik, Avangard, and Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missiles. According to Russian daily Izvestia, preparations for the testing of this new ‘doomsday weapon’, called Poseidon, are underway with the Russian Navy.
The test would be done aboard the Project 09852 nuclear-powered submarine ‘Belgorod’, and will be the first experimental carrier for the Poseidon.
According to The Moscow Times, the construction of required infrastructure to maintain and carry out operations of this new strategic deterrent would be completed by 2022. The drone submarine’s launch was expected in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to unknown reasons, suspected to be the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UUV’s sea range tests are already complete involving a diesel-driven submarine.
The ‘Poseidon’ UUV
It is a UUV being developed by Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau. The Poseidon is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed autonomous vehicle and can be used as a nuclear deterrent against hostile bases and naval stations. Its launch and functioning are synonymous with an advanced, sophisticated nuclear-armed torpedo with a [speculated] blast yield of 2-100 Mt (classified). It is also capable of delivering conventional payloads.
— RT (@RT_com) February 20, 2019
In an article written by H.I. Sutton for Forbes in November 2019, Poseidon is one of the most disruptive weapons currently being developed.
“It is also one of the least well understood. Each new report and image provides intelligence that improves our understanding. It is designed to hit coastal cities with a 2-megaton warhead, around 133 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima,” the article says.
Two vessels that are speculated to carry the Poseidon, the Project 09852 Oscar-class submarine Belgorod and the Project 09851 Khabarovsk submarines, are new boats launched in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Oscar-class submarines could carry four Poseidon torpedoes at the same time for a total yield of up to 400 megatonnes.
According to some reports, the Poseidon may also have a seabed or mobile site launch option. In the seabed option, known as Skif, Poseidon can wait on the seafloor in a special container for as long as necessary.
It is known that the Russian auxiliary vessel ZVEZDOCHKA 600 (Project 20180) with ice-breaking capability is being used for testing of the Poseidon drones, thus it’s believed the ship can be also used as the platform for deploying and retrieving a seabed version of the drone.
The seabed launch option was patented (RU 2135929 patent) by the Poseidon designer Alexander Shalnev.
While the specifications remain confidential, experts say Poseidon appears to be a torpedo-shaped robotic mini-submarine, which can travel at speeds of 185 km/h (100kn). More recent information suggests a top speed of 100 km/h (54kn), with a range of 10,000 km (5,400 nmi; 6,200 mi) and a depth maximum of 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
The typical depth of the drone may be about 50–100 meters for increased stealth features in low-speed stealth mode. Low depth on stealth mode is preferred because sound waves move to the ocean floor and reduce the radius of detection. Submarines use the same strategy on silent running mode.