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Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Drone Submarine ‘Poseidon’ To Have Coastal Base By Next Year

Russia’s top-tier unmanned nuclear-powered submarine Project ‘Poseidon’ seems to be on track as the country is set to establish a dedicated coastal base for this by next year. 

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According to The Moscow Times, the construction of required infrastructure to maintain and carry out operations of this new strategic deterrent would be completed by 2022. The unmanned submarine’s launch was expected in 2020 but was postponed until 2021 probably due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Izvestia, another Russian news agency, said that the crew members of the Belgorod submarine have already begun ‘practical training’ on the drone submarine. The agency also quoted senior officials mentioning that a coastal base is imperative for the weapon’s efficiency in combat duty and operations. 

“Throwing such equipment directly in the water is like throwing it away and turning it into a piece of scrap metal,” Izvestia quoted Rear Adm. Vsevolod Khmyrov as saying.

What Is ‘Poseidon’?

It is an underwater unmanned vehicle being developed by Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau. Poseidon is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed autonomous vehicle and can be used as a nuclear deterrent against hostile bases and naval stations. 

Its launch and functioning are synonymous with an advanced, sophisticated nuclear-armed torpedo with a speculated blast yield of 2-100 megatons (Mt). It is also capable of delivering conventional payloads.

In an article written by H. I. Sutton for Forbes in November 2019, he mentioned Poseidon as one of the most disruptive weapons currently being developed. 

“It is also one of the least well understood. Each new report and image provides intelligence that improves our understanding. It is designed to hit coastal cities with a 2-megaton warhead, around 133 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima,” he wrote.

Two vessels that are speculated to carry the Poseidon, the Project 09852 Oscar-class submarine Belgorod and the Project 09851 Khabarovsk submarines, are new boats launched in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

Oscar-class submarines could carry four Poseidon torpedoes at the same time for a total yield of up to 400 Mt.

According to some reports, the Poseidon may also have a seabed or mobile site launch option. In the seabed option, known as Skif, Poseidon can wait on the seafloor in a special container for as long as necessary. 

It is known that the Russian auxiliary vessel ZVEZDOCHKA 600 (Project 20180) with ice-breaking capability is being used for testing of the Poseidon drones. Thus, it’s believed the ship can be also used as the platform for deploying and retrieving a seabed version of the drone. 

The seabed launch option was patented (RU 2135929 patent) by the Poseidon designer Alexander Shalnev.

While the specifications remain confidential, experts have stated that Poseidon appears to be a torpedo-shaped robotic mini-submarine that can travel at speeds of 185 km/h (100 kn). 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).

The typical depth of the drone may be about 50–100 meters for increased stealth features on low-speed stealth mode. Low depth on stealth mode is preferred because sound waves move to the ocean floor and reduce the radius of detection. Submarines use the same strategy on silent running mode.

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