Although it had been labeled as a dangerous idea that did not exist as a real military asset just half a year ago, according to certain analysts, the Pentagon has now confirmed leaked information that Russia actually does possess a “doomsday drone,” a nuclear-capable submarine vehicle.
Popular Mechanics reported Thursday that Russia does indeed possess a nuclear delivery drone. It is an underwater drone vehicle, one fully capable of transporting a massive nuclear warhead capable of destroying coastal cities as well as targeted military bases. The drone, Pentagon sources confirmed, tested the underwater delivery system late last month.
The test of the underwater nuclear drone was leaked by anonymous sources and revealed early Thursday by the Washington Free Beacon. According to the outlet, military officials revealed that U.S. intelligence services were able to detect the test of the unmanned underwater vehicle, which has been assigned the code name “Kanyon” by the Pentagon. The drone was launched from a Sarov-class submarine on Nov. 27, Pentagon officials said.
The Free Beacon was also the outlet that broke the original story about plans for the underwater nuclear drone in September, 2015.
Up until July, 2016, news of such an underwater “doomsday drone” was brushed off as “science fiction,” according to analyst I. Sutyagin of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the same people that calculate the ominously cautionary “Doomsday Clock.” Even a November (2015) video of a high-level meeting of the Russian military discussing plans for the “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6′” vehicle was considered “staged.” The analysis did contend, though, that such a video was “cause for concern, because it demonstrates a growing Russian willingness to make nuclear threats as a means to achieving political ends.”
Given that the “Status-6” submarine drone does exist, however, suggests that the delivery vehicle has been in development for some time and that the 2015 video may have been a bit dated.
To illustrate the vehicle’s nuclear payload capability, Popular Mechanics noted that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 16 kilotons. The “doomsday drone” is reportedly (from Russian sources) designed for transporting and delivering a thermonuclear bomb that could have a 100-megaton yield. To compare, a one megaton bomb delivers the equivalent of 1,000 kilotons of released energy, or one one million tons of TNT. A 100-megaton bomb would yield the equivalent of 6,250 Hiroshima bombs.
Not only would the blast zone be enormous, causing catastrophic damage through released heat and produced shockwave, but bombs detonated offshore could generate artificial tsunamis that would have the potential to cause extensive damage far inshore.
The Russian weapons would most likely be used against American ports and coastal military installations. If a nuclear war were to become prolonged, it is believed that the drone would be used to destroy adversarial submarines in port and would work to prevent subs at sea from making it a port for reloading missiles.
As far as defending against the “doomsday drone,” current American homing torpedoes would work at a disadvantage against the vehicle. The “Status-6” reportedly has a top speed of 56 knots, which is faster than any current device available in the American arsenal. It is also reportedly able to dive deeper than current American torpedoes as well.
Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider, who now works with the National Institute for Public Policy, noted, according to the Free Beacon, that the Russian drone posed a new strategic threat. He said the “Status-6,” which is also nuclear-powered, was “the most irresponsible nuclear weapons program that Putin’s Russia has come up with,” pointing out that “Status-6 is designed to kill civilians by massive blast and fallout,” which violates the law of armed conflict.
A document seen in the 2015 video revealed that Russia planned to construct a Kanyon prototype by 2019, with tests beginning the same year. However, the Free Beacon pointed out, the recent test of the submarine nuclear drone “indicates the document may have been a disinformation operation aimed at deceiving the United States about the program.”
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