Poseidon (previously known as Status-6 (Russian code name) and Kanyon (American code name)) is a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle under development by the Russian Federation that can deliver conventional and nuclear payloads. According to Russian state TV, it may be able to deliver a thermonuclear cobalt bomb of up to 100 megatonnes against enemy’s naval ports and coastal cities.

In 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review stated that Russia is developing a “new intercontinental, nuclear armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo”.

“Kanyon” is the name given to this drone by the Central Intelligence Agency.

In March 2018, Russian Ministry of Defence officially named the drone “Poseidon” following a public vote.

Operation

The Poseidon weapon is designed to create a tsunami wave up to 500 metres (1,600 ft) tall, which would contaminate a wide area on an enemy’s coast with radioactive isotopes, as well as being immune to anti-missiledefence systems such as anti-ballistic missiles, laser weapons and railguns that might disable an ICBM or a SLBM.

An aircraft carrier battle group would have reduced chances of defending itself against it. The drone could detonate its very large warhead at standoff range, and anti-submarine warfare units would have very little time to react because of the speed at which it travels.

Two potential carrier submarines, which would allegedly carry the Poseidon externally, the Project 09852 Oscar-class submarine Belgorod, and the Project 09851 Yasen-class submarine Khabarovsk, are new boats laid down in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

Oscar-class submarines could carry four Poseidon torpedoes at the same time for the total yield of up to 400 megatonnes.

Poseidon appears to be a deterrent weapon of last resort.

It appears to be a torpedo-shaped robotic mini-submarine which can travel at speeds of 185 km/h (100 kn).

More recent information suggests a top speed of 100 km/h (54 kn), with a range of 10,000 km (5,400 nmi; 6,200 mi) and a depth maximum of 1,000 m (3,300 ft).

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This underwater drone is cloaked by stealth technology to elude acoustic tracking devices. Its size appears to be 1.6 metres in diameter, and 24 metres long.

The warhead shown in the leaked figure is a cylinder 1.5 metres in diameter by 4 metres in length, giving a volume of 7 cubic meters. Comparing this to the volumes of other large thermonuclear bombs, the 1961 Soviet-era Tsar Bomba itself measured 8 metres long by 2.1 metres in diameter, indicates that the yield is at least several tens of megatons, generally consistent with early reports.

History

The first public report about Poseidon was in September 2015 and cited Pentagon sources.

On November 10, the Russian television station NTV “accidentally” showed a document in the hand of a Russian general during a report in which Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced American plans concerning defensive missiles. There was debate afterwards about whether this was a warning to the West or disinformation.

Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta speculated that the warhead would be a cobalt bomb.

The CIA has concluded the leak was intentional.

Russia may have tested Poseidon for the first time in Arctic waters on 27 November 2016, or perhaps in a landed mockup, though no evidence of any test is available.

A Pentagon draft Nuclear Posture Review report leaked in January 2018 stated that Poseidon was under development.

Reaction

Vladimir Putin in March 2018 referenced an autonomous torpedo that could hit a U.S. port city, presumably a reference to Poseidon. Addressing the torpedo, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis stated Russia already has the capability to hit U.S. port cities with missiles, and told reporters in Oman that Poseidon “does not change at all the strategic balance”.

Weight and size
Length 24 m
Diameter 1.60 m
Performance
10,000 km high-speed range
Speed 185 km / h (100 knots)
Maximum operating depth 1 000 m
Electric motor
Explosive nuclear warhead at 100 Mt

Effect of the explosion of a 100 Mt nuclear warhead on the shores facing the city of New York.
Model that reproduces the size of radioactive contamination due to the outbreak of the 100 Mt cobalt warhead of the UMV “Status-6”.
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