The Inside Scoop: What Russia Is Really Saying About Its 100-Megaton Nuclear Torpedo
First, however, it should be said that TNI has carried several articles that provide a good analysis of this new weapons system, including in particular, a fine exploratory piece by Dave Majumdar. He quotes CSBA undersea warfare expert Bryan Clark explaining that the system is far from an ideal weapon and may face real technical hurdles since a one-hundred megaton weapon could be exceedingly heavy and thus “difficult to control.” Monterey nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis is quoted reassuringly as saying: “I think we could build defenses against it … It should be easier than intercepting a missile, for sure.” To state the obvious at the outset: this Russian system’s main advantage is that it bypasses missile defenses altogether. Needless to say, it is a grave symptom of the new and continuously accelerating Cold War.
A few more details could be worth noting from the above Russian source, associated with the Russian military industrial complex [Военный Промышленный Комплекс]. Status-6 is reported to be powered by a liquid metal reactor and is said to have a cruising speed of 55km per hours. But it is apparently capable of a sprint at 100 to 185km per hour, allowing it to escape, according to this source, from any existing torpedoes employed by adversaries. Good to a depth of 1000m, the vehicle is said to be 26m in length and 1.6m in width. This report may confirm a U.S. intelligence assessment that a “successful test launch” [произведен успешный испытательный пуск] was undertaken on 27 November 2016 by the submarine Sarov. This project is apparently being developed by the submarine design bureau Rubin [Рубин] and is described as a “deterrent weapon with a 100% guarantee of operation.”
Reflecting evidently on the comments by Bryan Clark in the article cited above, another Russian appraisal commented in January 2018 that: “… unfortunately for those who dream of the destruction of America by a giant tsunami, the ‘Status-6’ project is not so terrible as it is painted.” Another Russian analysis is considerably less frivolous and suggests the Status-6 is not just an “asymmetric response” [асимметричный ответ] to the deployment of BMD installations in Eastern Europe, but is also a reaction to “the placement of NATO battalions in Poland and the Baltics and other potentially aggressive actions of Washington against Russia.” That discussion points out that this project was first developed in the early Cold War, but could not be fully realized because of technical limitations. It is explained that “after half a century, the problem with the reactor has been solved…” [через полвека проблема с реактором была решена] and thus now the project is feasible.
An additional December 2017 Russian report suggests that “The US is Preparing an Answer for Russia’s Nuclear Torpedo.” This analysis suspects that the relatively new American XLUUV (Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) Orca program represents a “system capable of creating a local nuclear apocalypse” [системе, способной устроить локальный ядерный апокалипсис]. Although the article admits that the stated objectives of the American program are ISR, mine-countermeasures and transporting equipment, it is said that Russian experts are dubious of these claims. They apparently think that the timing of the “activation” of the Orca program is likely related to the American discovery of the Status-6 program, and so the U.S. system might well be an effort “to influence the strategic balance of power between Russia and NATO.”
Such thinking might prompt Russian strategists to consider the pointlessness of accelerating the nuclear arms race once again. Indeed, at least one of the Russian analyses cited above does indeed seem attuned to that sad reality: “… there is no point in such weapons. Therefore, we will continue to frighten Americans with Soviet skeletons, and they will pretend that they are frightened. The main thing: …funding is allocated …” [… смысла в таком оружии нет никакого. Поэтому мы и дальше будем пугать американцев советскими скелетами, а они будут делать вид, что испугались. Главное: … финансирование выделено…]