Let’s get straight to the point: it is the largest torpedo that exists, it is 20 meters long, and it has a nuclear warhead that can detonate when it reaches the coast and thus create a 500-meter-high tsunami that hits radioactive water… It is called Poseidon and is the first and only of his kind.
And Putin intends to have it operational as soon as possible to redefine the rules of modern conflict.
The largest man-made tsunami
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0, so intense that it is the fourth most powerful recorded in history, caused a tsunami with waves of 10 meters in height that swept the East Coast of Japan, causing 18,000 deaths, damage by more than 235,000 million dollars, and a nuclear emergency at the Fukushima nuclear plant. One of the waves penetrated up to 10 kilometers inside the city of Sendai.
On December 26, 2004, just the day after Christmas, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra created a tsunami with waves 50 meters high that penetrated up to 5 kilometers into the interior of Meubolah, Sumatra. Around 230,000 people died and caused damage worth 10,000 million dollars.
Now imagine a Tsunami that is not born miles out to sea, but is unleashed directly on the coast, near urban centers. A sudden tsunami with waves up to 500 meters high, 10 times more than in Sumatra. Waves as tall as the now-defunct World Trade Center, and more than half as tall as Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. And waves ‘charged’ with radioactive material mixed with the water, capable of not only hitting the coast and penetrating kilometers into its interior, but also leaving everything that the water touches uninhabitable and radioactive for hundreds of years. That’s what Poseidon can do.
Poseidon is the largest torpedo ever developed in any country. At about 2 meters in diameter and over 20 meters in length, it is about twice the size of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and thirty times the size of a normal “heavy” torpedo. The weapon is seen primarily as part of the nuclear deterrent, acting as a second-strike weapon against coastal population centers such as New York and Los Angeles.
In this scenario, its lack of reliance on satellites and the fact that it passes under missile defenses make it “a slow but inevitable death.” And it is that according to the sources Poseidon does not depend on any external GPS, it does not need a satellite to guide it, but rather it follows its internal navigation system.
Capable of navigating to a depth of 1km, it can go practically silently, very slowly, so as not to activate any of the coastal defense systems. And when reaching a certain distance from the coast, accelerate to 70 knots and self-detonate. In comparison, a North American Seawolf-class submarine only reaches 490 meters of depth and 35 knots of maximum speed.
Carrying a 2-megaton nuclear warhead, Poseidon could wipe out an entire coastal Navy fleet. But with a 100- megaton warhead, it would level New York City and the New Jersey shore outright, rendering them uninhabitable for centuries. Official Russian sources have repeatedly positioned it as a multirole system with a tactical nuclear anti-ship role, shown attacking carrier battle groups.
Its usefulness against moving targets is less clear, but it should be taken seriously in any case. In any case, this nuclear-tactical role makes the fight against this system more pressing, since “the traditional “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) is undermined”.
- Length: 24 meters (79 ft) (estimate)
- Diameter: 2 m (6.5 ft) (estimated)
- Speed: 70 knots (reports claiming that Poseidon can travel at very high speeds and/or that it uses supercavitation – the use of a cavitation bubble to reduce skin friction on a submerged object and allow high speeds – have been denied).
- Range: +10,000 kilometers
- Operating depth: >1,000 meters (3,280 feet) (reported)
- Propulsion: Nuclear
- Warhead: 2 to 100 megatons (reported)
In November 2020, Christopher A. Ford—former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation—said of the Poseidon torpedo that it can “flood America’s coastal cities with radioactive tsunamis.” The weapon is “very real”: Vice Admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes, Norway’s chief of intelligence, said his agency sees the Poseidon as ” part of the new type of nuclear deterrence weapon”.
Nuclear-powered intercontinental autonomous torpedo
The question that many ask is: “Is the Poseidon 2M39 already operational?” “Can you deploy it targeting the southern coast of the Ukraine?” “Or to other shores of other countries?” The answer is no, it is not yet according to Intelligence experts. On February 20, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the first submarine intended to carry the Poseidon would be launched in the spring of 2019, referring according to submersible and submarine systems expert Hi Sutton “probably Pr.09852 Belgorod, whose launching was scheduled for 2018″.
On the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video (on Youtube) of the torpedo tests. Poseidon has been tested aboard the purpose-built Project 20120 Sarov-class vessel. And “ when she enters service in 2027, she will be carried by two operational submarines”:
- A modified OSCAR-II class vessel, Project 09852 Belgorod
- The purpose-built Project 09851 Khabarovsk.
The good news according to sites such as Naval News is that as of today, none of the submarines that carry it are operational. A test submarine, the Sarov, which can carry a single Poseidon torpedo, is in service. Another ship, the Belgorod, has not yet entered service. One can speculate that “Russia could attempt a launch if desperate enough. But it is currently nowhere near the threat level of traditional submarine-launched missiles.”
From an underwater base
According to Sutton, in addition to the underwater launch, there are reports and rumors that Poseidon has a seafloor launch option, waiting on the seafloor for as long as necessary. In this mode, the system may be known as Skif (Скиф – possibly named for the Scythian nomads who once walked the steppes of Eurasia 1500 years ago). It’s unclear whether it will be deployed by host submarines (above) or by surface ships, but if it did exist it would be in breach of weapons treaties to deposit weapons on the seafloor above 12 miles.
In April of this year, when we released this news, the system was therefore not ready – or so the data and speculation indicated. But it does raise concerns about nuclear stability shortly. Poseidon changes the shape of nuclear deterrence and will become one of Russia’s most feared weapons when it is ready.
But 6 months later, it seems that the situation has changed. And with it the balance of power.
In recent days, an intelligence note sent by NATO to its member countries has changed opinion and created an unprecedented nuclear alert, since the note warns of the mobilization of the Russian nuclear submarine K-329 Belgorod. According to several media reports, the submarine carries the Poseidon nuclear missile and would have a launch capacity
The new submarine was launched in July and now it would have submerged in Arctic waters after its possible involvement in the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, according to different unofficial sources compiled by Europa Press.
As if things weren’t bad enough, North Korea’s latest move has added to the tension in Southeast Asia. According to the Reuters agency, a few hours ago North Korea tested its weapons by launching a ballistic missile. This, although it would have repercussions due to the tense environment we live in, would not have caused so much alarm if it were not for the fact that the North Korean army decided that its missile would fly further than ever, sending it to fly over the sky of Japan. This is the first time in five years that this has happened, going back to 2017, and has prompted a warning for residents there to take cover.