2M39 Poseidon
The Poseidon Torpedo, with classified propulsion system censored
TypeNuclear-powered, nuclear-armed UUV
Place of originRussia
Service history
Used byRussia
Production history
DesignerRubin Design Bureau and other defence industrial enterprises of Russian Federation
Designed2015
Produced2023
Specifications
MassUp to 100 metric tons
LengthUp to 20 m (65.6 ft)
DiameterUp to 2 m

Blast yieldSpeculated to be 2 Mt or more[1]: 24[2][3]

EngineLiquid metal reactor
At least 15 MW
TransmissionElectric transmission
Operational
range
Unlimited
Maximum depthUp to 1,000 meters (3280 ft)[4]
Maximum speed Up to 100 knots (185 km/h / 115 MPH)
Guidance
system
GLONASS satellite guidance, also AI guidance
Launch
platform
Submarine
External videos
video icon Poseidon Oceanic Multipurpose System on YouTube //
video icon Field tests of the Poseidon complex on YouTube //

The Poseidon (Russian: Посейдон, "Poseidon", GRAU index 2M39, NATO reporting name Kanyon), previously known by Russian codename Status-6 (Russian: Статус-6), is an autonomous, nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle reportedly in production by Rubin Design Bureau, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear warheads.[1][5][6]

The Poseidon is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.[7]

History

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The first public appearance of Poseidon dates back to September 2015 and cites Pentagon sources.[8]

On 10 November 2015, a page of a document that contained information about a secret "oceanic multi-purpose system" called "Status-6" was "accidentally" revealed by Russian NTV television channel. The leak happened during Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech denouncing American plans concerning "defensive" missile technology.[9] Speculation arose as to whether this was a warning signal or disinformation intended to mislead foreign intelligence services.[10] The CIA has claimed the leak was intentional.[9]

According to the Pentagon, Russia conducted the first test-launch of Poseidon on 27 November 2016, using the B-90 Sarov special purpose submarine. The test was reportedly carried out in the Arctic Ocean.[11][12]

In early 2018, the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review publicly acknowledged development of Russia's "new intercontinental, nuclear armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo".[13][14][15][16]

In March 2018, the system was officially named "Poseidon", following a public vote.[17]

In January 2019, the Russian Navy announced plans to procure at least 30 Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicles, deployed on four submarines, two of which would serve in the Russian Northern Fleet and two in the Pacific Fleet.[18]

On 2 February 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced completion of the key stage of trials of Poseidon.[19]

On 20 February 2019, the Russian Defence Ministry released a video, showing a Poseidon being test-launched by a B-90 Sarov special purpose submarine.[20]

On 16 January 2023, it was reported that the first batch of the weapons has been manufactured.[21]

Design speculation

Overview

Estimated diameter of the Poseidon, about 2 meters

The Poseidon is intended to serve as response to U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty and to increase the Russian capability to overcome the U.S. missile defense systems,[1]: 25[22][2][3] such as anti-ballistic missiles, etc.

The Poseidon warhead can contaminate a large area with radiation. For this purpose, the Poseidon is speculated to be equipped with a cobalt bomb.[23][24] The Poseidon could be a radiological second strike weapon.[25][26]

Normal (not salted) thermonuclear weapons cause radioactive fallout primarily through neutron activation of material at the detonation site. Unless the detonation happens at low depths in shallow waters, an underwater detonation will have its fallout greatly reduced, except for at the surface immediately above, near the base surge. Much of the radioactivity will be deposited in the sea, and be carried by ocean currents.[27] Water (and air) will not form radioisotopes suitable for radiological warfare when neutron activated, however the seawater-salt will, and the seabed may.

If used against an aircraft carrier battle group, the 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.[28]

Specifications

The Poseidon appears to be a torpedo-shaped robotic mini-submarine which can travel at speeds of 185 km/h (100 kn).[25][26][29] 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).[30]

Typical depth of the drone may be about 50–100 meters (160–330 ft) for increased stealth features in low-speed stealth mode. Low depth in stealth mode is preferred because sound waves move to ocean floor and reduce radius of detection. Submarines use the same strategy in silent running mode.[31]

It is 1.6–2 metres (5–7 ft) in diameter and 24 metres (80 ft) long.[32] The warhead shown in the leaked figure is a cylinder 1.5 metres (5 ft) in diameter by 4 metres (13 ft) in length, giving a volume of 7 cubic metres (250 cu ft). Comparing this to the volumes of other large thermonuclear bombs, the 1961 Soviet-era Tsar Bomba itself measured 8 metres (26 ft) long by 2.1 metres (6 ft 11 in) in diameter, indicating that the yield is at least several tens of megatons, generally consistent with early reports of 100 megatons.[33]

Body

Most likely, the high-strength body of the device is made of titanium alloys.

Powerplant

The National Interest compiled several unclassified defense sources from General Electric experts about the similar 601B project[34][35][36] and they predicted low weight and compact gas-cooled nuclear reactor in the drone.[37] Russian submarine designers say that a low-power reactor is preferred for Poseidon because a smaller reactor is less noisy.[31]

Stealth technology

Pump-jet of the drone[31]

The development includes also use of stealth technology, to elude acoustic tracking devices.[26][31][38] Poseidon uses a silent running strategy like other submarines. Its main stealth feature is its very low speed before it reaches the target area. Its high-speed mode activates upon reaching a short finish range (2–3 kilometers), when the probability of detection of the drone is considerably higher. It could travel for weeks toward enemy port cities, reaching high-speed only in the final stage.[37]

Russian designers estimated the radius of detection of the drone will be about 2–3 km (1.2–1.9 mi) for 55 km/h (34 mph).[31] A second important stealth feature of the drone is the special design of the pump-jet for clearance of the drone's acoustic signature to imitate the noise of civil ships.[31]

Calculation of detection range for modern acoustic sonar of Virginia-class submarine[31]
Speed of the drone (km/h) Detection range (km)
37 1.7
55 3
74 29
93 43

A U.S. intelligence officer told CNBC that the Poseidon is difficult to detect and difficult to target in stealth mode.[39]

Supercavitation

Poseidon is a family of drones, some of which are designed only for destroying coastal cities and thus rely on "stealth" capabilities rather than on high speed,[31] others of which are primarily designed to attack carrier battle groups[28] and were claimed to possibly harness supercavitation, like the VA-111 Shkval torpedo, to attain extremely high speeds (>230 mph) in attack mode.[40][41] However, supercavitation devices have not been observed on the available footage of Poseidon.[42] The Pentagon estimates maximum speed of the Poseidon to be about 56 kn (104 km/h; 64 mph) without the supercavitation option.[43]

Launch platforms

The two ships speculated to carry the Poseidon are the Project 09852 modified Oscar-class submarine Belgorod and the Project 09851 Khabarovsk submarines.[26][32][44][45] Oscar-class submarines could carry six Poseidon torpedoes at the same time for a total yield of up to 12-600 megatons.[46][47]

According to some reports, Poseidon may have a seabed or mobile site launch option. In this configuration, known as Skif (Скиф) and patented by designer Alexander Shalnev,[48] Poseidon can be staged on the sea floor in a special container as long as necessary. Russian auxiliary vessels Zvezdochka (Project 20180) and Akademik Aleksandrov (Project 20183), both of which feature ice-breaking capabilities, are involved in testing of Poseidon drones, indicating that these ships may be used as platforms for deploying and retrieving such a seabed version.[49][50]

Facts

In 2022, Russian domestic TV propaganda said Poseidon will be able to "plunge Britain into the depths of the sea".[51][52] According to Russian propaganda, the Poseidon Torpedo may initiate a 500 m high shockwave.[53]

Various sources disregard these claims by pointing out the difference between a potential wave generated by the weapon and a naturally occurring tsunami. Large tsunamis are usually directed along one path, whereas an undersea explosion causes a wave to spread in 360°, which attenuates more rapidly with distance than a unidirectional wave does. As a comparison, the energy release that caused the 2011 Japan Tsunami was 163,000 times larger than Tsar Bomba, the upper estimate of Poseidon's possible power.[54]

Reactions

Following the Russian President Vladimir Putin's statements during his presentation of several new Russian super-weapons[55][56] in March 2018, in which he specifically referenced to the Poseidon as a weapon which could also target and hit American port cities, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis stated Russia already had the potential capability of targeting certain port cities on the American coastline with missiles, and said thus Poseidon "does not change at all the strategic balance".[57]

Future users

 Russia

See also

References

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