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Russia Moots Nuclear UUV Weapon for Deployment by 2027

POSEIDON Reported to Have 2MT Warhead

Further (confusing) details have emerged of a Russian weapon system centred on a nuclear-capable and reportedly nuclear-powered ‘autonomous underwater vehicle’ or unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), which now appears to carry the Russian name POSEIDON. Originally revealed by the US DoD in a briefing document in January, the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 was dubbed KANYON by the Americans. President Putin then revealed its existence in his ‘state of the union’ address in March and this week state-controlled media agency TASS revealed further details.

The robotic vehicle is apparently intended to be transported to the theatre of operations in another submarine and is aimed primarily at eliminating hardened naval bases accessible from the sea by means of a 2MT warhead. With top speeds in the region of 60-70kts and an operating depth in excess of 3,000ft, POSEIDON must be causing NATO planners some concern. A similar concept, which was ultimately abandoned, was developed by the Soviet Navy some 50-60 years ago, according to the Center for Naval Analysis in Arlington, VA.

Since remote control signals cannot penetrate water effectively, POSEIDON would have to operate autonomously in all modes including, presumably, nuclear attack. While technology details are extremely sketchy, Russia has recently announced considerable success in seabed mapping (off the coast of Syria) using small UUVs such as the GALTEL, operating in an unmanned mode and making significant use of artificial intelligence. The threat seems viable in the medium or long term, though NATO analysts are reported to be relatively relaxed regarding the potential short term likelihood of an operational nuclear-armed UUV appearing in alliance coastal waters.

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