Apparently, Russia has plans for a long-range autonomous nuclear torpedo capable of carrying a massive warhead that could lay waste to seaports and shower coastal cities with radioactive contamination. The project, called Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6’, is a proposed long-range, high-speed unmanned underwater vehicle developed by Rubin, a St. Petersburg-based submarine design bureau. A document describing the system was revealed in a November 10 Channel One news broadcast of President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with military chiefs in Sochi.
The Channel One news report that revealed the document (shown at about 1:45 in the video).
The document was an overview “of one of the projects that presumably were discussed at the meeting as part of the plan to restore that strategic balance that the US missile defense system so blatantly undermines,” wrote Eugene Miasnikov, a co-author of Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, in an analysis post. Miasnikov provided a translation of the document, which included the description of the system as “damaging the important components of the adversary’s economy in a coastal area and inflicting 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.”
Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet nuclear scientist who later became a dissident and peace activist, originally intended a long-range torpedo to be the delivery vehicle for the Tsar Bomb—the largest nuclear device ever detonated, with an explosive force of 50 megatons. Stalin had signed off on the idea of nuclear strike torpedoes as early as 1951, though they were apparently never developed. But this new weapon system, proposed as a delivery vehicle for just about anything, may carry an even more massive payload. Even if it detonated underwater, a nuclear explosion could cause a wave of irradiated and contaminated sea water in a “base surge” that would wash ashore and flood coastal areas.
While Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that some secret data was accidentally leaked in the broadcast and was “subsequently deleted,” more information was published about the system in a November 11 article in the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta—prompting some to believe that the leak was intentional, the BBC reported.
Launchable from one of two special operations submarines, Rossiyskaya Gazeta described the system as “a giant torpedo—essentially a robotic submarine—with a range of 10,000 kilometers of running, diving depth of a kilometer and a speed of 100 knots that can easily get past all hydro-acoustic monitoring stations and other traps, and will deliver your cargo where you want.” The document shown in the broadcast indicated that the system was still under development, with a prototype due for delivery by 2019 and operational versions delivered by 2020.
The speed and range of the system, while on the edge of believability, are certainly within what is possible. Supercavitating torpedoes developed by the Soviet Union and still in use in the Russian Navy are capable of speeds of 200 knots (about 230 miles per hour). And the Ocean Multipurpose System apparently has its own nuclear propulsion plant, based on analysis by Miasnikov, which would make a range of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) feasible. Russian subs could launch the super torpedoes from far at sea—even from within protected Russian waters.