Russia Tests Nuclear-Capable Drone Sub

Kanyon UUV / Artist’s rendering

 

 

Unmanned underwater vehicle a strategic threat

Russia conducted a test of a revolutionary nuclear-capable drone submarine that poses a major strategic threat to U.S. ports and harbors.

U.S. intelligence agencies detected the test of the unmanned underwater vehicle, code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon, during its launch from a Sarov-class submarine on Nov. 27, said Pentagon officials familiar with reports of the test.

No details were available about the location or results of the test.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis declined to comment. “We closely monitor Russian underwater military developments, but we will not comment specifically about them,” Davis said.

Development of the new drone submarine was first disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon in September 2015 and then confirmed by the Russian military two months later. Russian officials said the secret program was mistakenly disclosed.

Russia calls the drone development program the “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6.’” The developer is Russia’s TsKB MT Rubin design bureau, the defense industry entity that builds all Russia’s submarines.

U.S. intelligence agencies estimate the Kanyon secret underwater drone will be equipped with megaton-class warheads—the largest nuclear weapons in existence, with the killing power of millions of tons of TNT.

The weapon likely could be used against U.S. ports and bases, including those used by ballistic missile submarines.

Russia’s nuclear weapons development in recent years has alarmed American military leaders in part due to a new doctrine adopted by Moscow that increases its reliance on nuclear forces in a conflict. The new doctrine indicates that Russia will quickly escalate to the use of nuclear arms to compensate for its aging and outdated conventional forces.

U.S. intelligence agencies also have detected Russia’s development of new low-yield tactical nuclear weapons—arms that could be used more easily in regional conflicts.

Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider said the test of the underwater nuclear delivery vehicle poses a new strategic threat.

“The Status-6, a nuclear powered, nuclear armed drone submarine, is the most irresponsible nuclear weapons program that Putin’s Russia has come up with,” said Schneider, now with the National Institute for Public Policy.

“Status-6 is designed to kill civilians by massive blast and fallout,” he said, noting that such targeting violates the law of armed conflict.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House subcommittee on strategic forces, has said that the Russians assert the nuclear drone submarine will be used to target coastal areas and inflict “unacceptable damage to a country’s territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time.”

“What does it say about a country that feels that nuclear weapons are such a significant tool of its military and diplomatic strategy that it discloses systems in this manner?” Rogers asked during a House hearing. “And what does this say about a country that would invest resources in such a weapon? This is just nuts.”

Pavel Podvig, a Russian nuclear forces watcher, stated two years ago that the Status-6 payload “looks like a massive dirty bomb,”—a nuclear device that kills with radiation as opposed to a combination of a nuclear blast and radiation.

“A number of people noted that the description does not necessarily exclude the possibility that the initial ‘damaging’ can be done by a regular nuclear device,” Podvig said. “Which only makes this whole thing even more insane—do they think that a nuclear weapon on its own would not inflict ‘unacceptable damage’?” he said.

Full article: Russia Tests Nuclear-Capable Drone Sub (Washington Free Beacon)

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