Russia Building Nuclear-Armed Drone Submarine

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‘Kanyon’ unmanned sub to target harbors, cities

Russia is building a drone submarine to deliver large-scale nuclear weapons against U.S. harbors and coastal cities, according to Pentagon officials.

The developmental unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, when deployed, will be equipped with megaton-class warheads capable of blowing up key ports used by U.S. nuclear missile submarines, such as Kings Bay, Ga., and Puget Sound in Washington state.

Details of the secret Russian nuclear UUV program remain closely held within the U.S. government.

The Pentagon, however, has code-named the drone “Kanyon,” an indication that the weapon is a structured Russian arms program.

The nuclear drone submarine is further evidence of what officials say is an aggressive strategic nuclear forces modernization under President Vladimir Putin. The building is taking place as the Obama administration has sought to reduce the role of nuclear arms in U.S. defenses and to rely on a smaller nuclear force for deterrence.

Officials familiar with details of the Kanyon program said the weapon is envisioned as an autonomous submarine strike vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead ranging in size to “tens” of megatons in yield. A blast created by a nuclear weapon that size would create massive damage over wide areas.

A megaton is the equivalent of 1 million tons of TNT.

On missiles, megaton warheads are called “city busters” designed to destroy entire metropolitan areas or to blast buried targets. An underwater megaton-class drone weapon would be used to knock out harbors and coastal regions, the officials said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the information.

Russian nuclear buildup

The Pentagon is in the process of retiring all of its megaton weapons. The stockpile of 9-megaton B53 bunker-buster bombs were dismantled several years ago, and the 1.2 megaton-B83 will be retired after the upgraded B61 bomb is deployed.

Russia’s arsenal of megaton warheads and bombs includes an estimated five SS-18s armed with 20-megaton warheads and previously deployed 5-megaton warheads on SS-19s. Moscow once built the largest nuclear weapon, the 150-megaton bomb called the Tsar Bomba, or “Tsar of bombs.”

China uses megaton warheads on its DF-5A missiles. The two-dozen DF-5As are said to be armed with 5-megaton warheads.

Goal: causing catastrophic damage

“The possible yield of the warhead, in the megaton class, clearly is an attempt to inflict catastrophic damage against U.S. or European naval facilities or coastal cities,” he added. “Nations vote with their resources, and the Kanyon, along with an expanding number of other military modernization programs, indicates the priority Vladimir Putin places on military preparedness against the West.”

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear policymaker, said Russian state-run media have announced plans for UUV development.

“In 2014, Putin stated that there were undisclosed strategic nuclear modernization programs that would be made public at the appropriate time,” Schneider said.

Moscow nuclear threats worrying

Robert Kehler, who retired two years ago as commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said development of a robot underwater nuclear strike vehicle could be part of what he termed a “troubling” Russian strategic nuclear buildup.

Full article: Russia Building Nuclear-Armed Drone Submarine (Washington Free Beacon)

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