8 December 2016
The Pentagon has confirmed that a new Russian nuclear delivery drone is real. The undersea drone, which carries an enormous nuclear warhead to destroy coastal cities and military bases, was tested late last month. The test was leaked by unnamed sources to The Washington Free Beacon.
Russia calls the system "Ocean Multipurpose System 'Status-6," and it is allegedly capable of traveling underwater to distances of to 6,200 miles. It can submerge to depths of 3,280 feet and travel at speeds of up to 56 knots.
The U.S. intelligence agencies estimate Status-6 will carry a multi-megaton thermonuclear bomb payload. For comparisons' sake the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 16 kilotons, several orders of magnitude smaller. A one megaton bomb is the equivalent of 1,000 kilotons—one one million tons of TNT. Reports from Russia indicate the bomb could be as large as 100 megatons.
Status-6 is designed to attack enemy coastal cities, ports, shipyards, and naval bases. Once Status-6 arrives at its destination it detonates the bomb, causing an enormous amount of damage through blast and heat. A 100 megaton bomb would generate artificial tsunamis, carrying the destruction far inshore.
As bad as that sounds, it gets even worse. Reports from Russia indicate the bomb could be armed with a "salted bomb", or one that "salts the Earth" with the dangerous isotope Cobalt-60. Such a bomb could spread such high levels of radioactivity it would prevent anyone from using the attack zone for approximately 100 years. Depending on location and prevailing weather conditions, such an explosion would also carry vast amounts of radiation inland.
The existence of Status-6 was originally greeted with some skepticism—the weapon sounds so horrible, so devastating, and so completely over the top it is difficult to process that someone would actually want to build such a thing. Unfortunately for all of mankind, it appears that it is very real.
Russia is thought to have conceived of Status-6 as a response to America's missile defense system. Although the system is so small it cannot hope to stop a concerted Russian nuclear attack, the Russians have been looking at ways to defeat it. Status-6 skirts around the missile defense system entirely by going underwater to attack American nuclear submarine bases such as those at Kings Bay, Georgia and Kitsap, Washington. While this wouldn't stop American "boomer" missile subs already at sea, in a prolonged nuclear war it destroy submarines in port and would prevent subs at sea from going back for missile reloads.
Status-6 would be a difficult weapon to stop. Its top speed of 56 knots would be faster than the current generation of American homing torpedoes, meaning it could simply outrun its pursuers. It's alleged maximum depth would allow it to dive much deeper than American torpedoes. A faster, deeper-diving torpedo is technically possible but would have to be developed first.
According to the Free Beacon, intelligence agencies monitored a test of the drone on November 27th. The drone was accompanied by a Sarov-class weapons testing submarine. Based with Russia's Northern Fleet, Sarov submarine may act as a mothership to Status-6 in wartime.
The drone's existence was originally revealed in 2015. The release, which was thought to have been an embarrassing mistake, stated the drone would be ready by 2019, with tests to begin in 2019-2020. This "mistake" may have been intentional to fool foreign intelligence agencies into believing the program was not as far along as it really was.