Home » Budget Industry » Russian Mystery Submarine Likely Deployment Vehicle for New Nuclear Torpedo


Russian Mystery Submarine Likely Deployment Vehicle for New Nuclear Torpedo

A rendering of the Project 09851 nuclear submarine Khabarovsk used with permission. H I Sutton Image

A rendering of the Project 09851 nuclear submarine Khabarovsk used with permission. H I Sutton Image

Russia’s plan to create a giant nuclear torpedo capable of wiping out a costal city could be farther along than just graphics on a briefing slide and gives purpose to a mysterious nuclear submarine, currently under construction.

Last month the Kremlin leaked its plan to develop the new Status-6 (or Kanyon) strategic weapon under the guise of a state controlled television feed accidentally catching a glimpse of the program overview.

The torpedo, according to the leaked details, is designed to “destroy important economic installations of the enemy in coastal areas and cause guaranteed devastating damage to the country’s territory by creating wide areas of radioactive contamination, rendering them unusable for military, economic or other activity for a long time,” according to a translation of the document by the BBC.

A rendering of the Status-6 nuclear torpedo used with permission. H I Sutton Image

A rendering of the Status-6 nuclear torpedo used with permission. H I Sutton Image

According to the leaked images, the Status-6 maybe as large as 80 feet long and powered by a nuclear reactor to give the torpedo a range of thousands of miles to deploy a warhead of up to 100 megatons.

The existence of the weapon also presents the best explanation yet to a mysterious submarine laid done last year in Russia’s Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk.

The Project 09851 nuclear submarine Khabarovsk has some similarities its new Borei-class of ballistic missile submarines but shorter and absent any ballistic missiles tubes.

Instead, according to study of the imagery by naval analyst H I Sutton, Khabarovsk is being custom built to field up to six of the Status-6 torpedoes.

Sutton determined the Khabarovsk design follows on a similar configuration found on the test submarine Sarov launched in 2007 that could also accommodate a torpedo the size of Status-6.

A comparison of the Sarov and Khabarovsk submarines used with permission. H I Sutton Image

A comparison of the Sarov and Khabarovsk submarines used with permission. H I Sutton Image

“The leaked graphic strongly hints toward the Khabarovsk having two side-by-side hulls in the bow,” wrote Sutton.
“The basic reason behind this arrangement is that the torpedoes have to fire forward, and are carried externally to the occupied pressure hulls.”

The configuration would create a first-of-its-kind strategic weapons platform purpose built to sidestep the growing effectiveness of American ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.

Just before the reveal of Status-6 on state television, Russian president Vladimir Putin told military officials the U.S. ballistic missile defense Aegis Ashore installation in Romania and Poland were, “an attempt to undermine the existing parity in strategic nuclear weapons and essentially to upset the whole system of global and regional stability.”
While little about the Status-6 or the purpose Khabarovsk can be proved definitively at the moment — the attention the disclosure has generated does benefit the Russian military-industrial complex.

A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television via the BBC

A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television via the BBC

“Ship, submarine and weapons exports remain a major source of income for the Russian economy and news of new advanced Russian mystery weapons and submarines, regardless of whether they ever enter production or not, helps enhance their reputation on the international arms market, and also contributes to a growing pride the Russian people feel regarding their defense forces,” Eric Wertheim — naval analyst and author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World — told USNI News on Thursday.

Still, the emergence of the weapon has registered official concern from U.S. officials.

“We are concerned about [Status-6] as a threat to the United States, but if it turns into a system that is widely put into operational deployment,” Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the House on Tuesday.
“I think it is a troubling system.”

  • Curtis Conway

    Time to stand up the ASW patrols in the Pacific and WestLant patrols areas.

    • PolicyWonk

      I’m sure glad the US Navy is buying two classes of the mighty “Littoral Combat Ship” to counter this kind of threat (sarcasm intended).

      We should be increasing the number of Virginia-class SSN’s we purchase (with the VPM option), and buy a fleet of AIP boats, and forward base them in troubled regions.

      These nuclear-powered torpedoes seem like a pretty nasty weapons system that at first look could start yet another types of arms race.

      • Curtis Conway

        I would put a Squadron of AIP boats in Bermuda and Hawaii so fast your head would spin.

        • Ctrot

          At the end of the 15 year R&D, 5 year building of the first hull and 2 year trials. 😉

          • Curtis Conway

            How many years have we been having this debate?

        • PolicyWonk

          I would’ve thought Diego Garcia, Australia, the Philippians, UAE, or maybe the Azores, or somewhere in the Med (Gibraltar, perhaps).

          Just curious – why Hawaii and Bermuda? They’re both pretty far from where our potential adversaries are (for AIP boats).

          • Curtis Conway

            One of the few platforms that gives our subs problems is the AIP boats. Russian and Chinese patrols in the Pacific and Russians in the WestLand patrol area will require a very quiet adversary to watch them.

            A US made AIP boat would have longer legs and submerged time. It is my belief that the US Navy should have began a program of record some time ago to build our own less expensive AIP submarines and help Taiwan, and Australia with the same. Lost opportunity in my book. Our AIP boat would have competed against anyone in range, submerged time, and speed.

            NavySubNuc probably has a clearer crystal ball here though. I just hunted submarines. At any rate we MUST renew these patrols because the adversaries have, or are beginning the patrols again.

      • Marcus Jones

        Seawolf class would be better suited for that task. That is what they were designed and built for.

      • draeger24

        AIP’s…surely you jest….build more SEAOWOLFs and VIRGINIAs….

        • PolicyWonk

          No – I don’t jest. We can purchase 3 AIP boats (easily) for the price of ONE Virginia. Don’t get me wrong – Virginias are great boats – and I recommend AIP boats in addition to the SSN’s.

          But our navy came out a poor second to the AIP boats in war games – and we need the coverage. And we can forward base them in the littorals they are so well suited for at a fraction of the price. And, as an added bonus, we’d have something to sell Taiwan.

  • sferrin

    “The 80s called, they want their Cold War back. Hurrrr,durrr hurrr hurrr” – Barack Obama..

    • Ctrot

      I’m stealing that. 😉

    • draeger24

      Because of Obugger and Hillary, they have it back….

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  • bobbymike34

    We need to elevate the nuclear mission with a ‘Manhattan Project II’ accelerated and rapid reconstitution of the Triad with new delivery vehicles armed with brand new warheads from active production lines.

    • Secundius

      @ boobymike34.

      In a Virtual World, that might happen (sic. “SIM’s”). In the REAL, Never Going To Happen. You can Program Virtual, you can’t in REAL…

    • NavySubNuke

      Shoot at this point I would be happy if we stood up a pit production line! But the rest of the list is needed as well – along with resuming testing of warheads —- especially life extended warheads that use new components and technologies that have never actually been fully tested to completion.

  • scott

    if its nuclear powered why would you need a sub to carry it? why not just release it from a shoreline somewhere?

    • Vincent Ang Giap Hor

      Very good point.

    • Secundius

      @ scott.

      Probably because they want to make sure it actually get’s there…

    • Marcus Jones

      Nuke bomb not reactor. The propulsion system isn’t nuclear just the explosive payload.

      • NavySubNuke

        Incorrect – at least according to the information leaked above — it is nuclear powered and has a nuclear warhead.

      • scott

        look again, its nuclear propulsion also

    • draeger24

      correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t about a third of the cruise missiles launched by the Russian ships land in Iran? I think reliability dictates they launch as closely as possible….

      • scott

        nothing but the open ocean between us and them. so if it can run for 20 miles then it can run for 2000 or 20000…

        • draeger24

          I think you are missing my point on Russian reliability

          • scott

            I’m not but it is simple in nature to have a prop and fins to guide it to its target. I wonder how fast they intend to make it and if it would have a low speed cruise or a high speed sprint? not to mention the radiation that it would put out when critical.

      • scott

        it wouldn’t be difficult. if you can navigate it 20 miles then you can do 2000. most of it is open ocean

  • jeffrey exposito

    I dont know why the press is stupid and naive enough to believe the obvious Russian disunformation on the so called Status 6 long range nuckear torpedo. The Pentagon already concluded with good reason that the so called leak was an intentinal Kremlin disinformation scheme intended to cause fear and nothing more. Such a project is un feasible and is just another one of Putins fantasy weapons that will never be operational.

  • Arbuthnaught

    There is too much about this whole nuclear torpedo episode that does not make sense. There is so much about it that screams psy-op. The “leak” on Russian national tv just seems a bit improbable., Russia has proven and more reliable means of delivering nuclear weapons than a torpedo traveling a great distance, not under the control of a human operator, susceptible to interception and failure of a complex nuclear propulsion system. A long range conventional torpedo could do almost the same thing though the mother ship would have to come in closer.

    It was always rumored that the “midget sub” sightings all over the Baltic during the cold war and perhaps recently were Russians practicing putting nuclear demolition charges in Nato reinforcement ports. If Russia was developing a sub and torpedo for that mission that was a bit “bigger and better” then that would be more believable to me.

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  • emsteksrv

    Oh no! We’re losing our lead in drawings and graphics.

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  • Jim Valle

    The development of this kind of weapons system on the part of Russia seems to me to be dumb beyond the bounds of ordinary dumbness! The only thing they might accomplish with it is to lure us into spending umpteen billions to counter it. If they were ever to use it we would all be back to Mutually Assured Destruction days and what would that accomplish? As one of the World’s larger economies, a major fuel and raw materials exporter, a technologically sophisticated society and a significant agricultural producer, their best interests reside in trading peacefully with the rest of the World and improving the prospects and living standards of their people. They must be idiots not to be able to see that.

  • “I think it is a troubling system.”

    An understatement of the year! Firstly, if this is a real capability, and not ‘maskirovka’, then this suggests an entirely new type of nuclear weapons delivery capability alongside land-based ICBMs, submarine based SLBMs and manned bombers – so the notional ‘triad’ becomes a ‘quad’ (is that the correct term?). That complicates not only nuclear strategy but existing and future arms control and non-proliferation, as well as verification and monitoring of agreements.

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this weapon has a ‘salted warhead’ – jacketed with Cobalt. The last time Cobalt weapons were seriously considered was the 1950s, and then both the United States and the Soviet Union decided that Cobalt jacketed bombs were strategically nonsensical – yet here we are in the 21st Century with Russia re-introducing such weapons. By the way, it was Cobalt bombs – lots of them – that was the basis for the Russian doomsday machine in ‘Dr Strangelove’.

    This weapon is a counter-value weapon, designed to be used against large urban areas and inflicting massive and long-lasting radiation contamination. The Cobalt jackets, combined with an underwater detonation would unleash nuclear tsunamis of highly radioactive water and a slurry of radioactive moisture over cities, and if a 100 megaton yield is for real, then the devastation would be horrendous. Work it out – what percentage of Americans live along or close to coastal areas, and how many cities would be contaminated for decades or longer. Imagine New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and so on – like Chernobyl.

    So I have to wonder about the strategic sense of this weapon (once again, assuming it is real) because its use would force the US to respond with a massive nuclear response against Russian cities – its back to Massive Retaliation of the Eisenhower era. Yet its delivery system from offshore by submarines makes it much more destabilizing than ICBMs. What are the Russians thinking when they design weapons like this???

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