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Tags: Emerging Threats | cold war | icbm | ssbn

Is Russia's Ultimate Weapon a Robot Submarine?

Is Russia's Ultimate Weapon a  Robot Submarine?

Launch room exemplar of a Russian submarine. (Dreamstime)

Peter Pry By Friday, 22 June 2018 09:09 AM Current | Bio | Archive

"Maskirovka" is an official and diligently practiced dimension of Russian military doctrine seeking to achieve strategic and technological surprise by concealment and disinformation.

Dictator Putin and Russian military commentary on Poseidon — their robot submarine armed with a monster 100-megaton warhead — lists its missions as:

  • Making nuclear tsunamis to flood and radioactively contaminate U.S. coasts;

  • Destroying U.S. naval bases and fortified submarine pens;

  • Destroying U.S. aircraft carriers.

But Poseidon is not necessary or practical for any of these missions.

Russian nuclear missiles and bombers can already blast and radioactively contaminate U.S. cities coastal or otherwise, destroy U.S. naval bases and fortified submarine pens, and attack deployed U.S. aircraft carriers.

The only mission not mentioned for Poseidon, the most obvious one, is attacking U.S. ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) on patrol, hiding at sea.

During the Cold War, the USSR achieved the ability to destroy all or most U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic bombers, and SSBNs in port by a surprise nuclear attack on their bases — but not submarines at sea.

Many analysts credit the survivability of U.S. SSBNs at sea with deterring the USSR from launching World War III.

The U.S. SSBN fleet during the 1980s Cold War numbered from 36 to 41 vessels.

Today, U.S. ICBMs, strategic bombers, and submarines in port are much more vulnerable to a Russian surprise nuclear attack than during the Cold War. Today’s Trident SSBN fleet numbers only 14 vessels, scheduled to decline to 12 Columbia SSBNs in the future. On any given day, half of U.S. ballistic missile submarines are in port, and at most half patrolling at sea.

Normally day-to-day, the most credibly survivable leg of the entire U.S. nuclear Triad amounts to no more than 7 ballistic missile submarines, in the future declining to 6 SSBNs.

What if Poseidon, a nuclear-powered drone, is intended to be always on patrol at sea, rarely or never returning to port — always tailing U.S. SSBNs to destroy them, on command, in a surprise attack?

Advances in sensors and Artificial Intelligence make such a mission for Poseidon plausible.

The Poseidon prototype operates out of a mother ship, which will be fatal for the robot-sub if it is intended to deploy from port in wartime, an easy target.

However, Poseidon could deploy in peacetime for protracted patrols or lingering outside U.S. ports, like a mobile underwater mine, hunting U.S. SSBNs until D-Day.

Poseidon makes more sense as a "release and forget" independent killer, since the mother ship would be destroyed if anywhere in the neighborhood of Poseidon blast.

U.S. submarines are still stealthier and more elusive than Russian subs. But a 100-megaton warhead detonated underwater — because a nuclear shockwave couples to water far more efficiently than to air, and travels through water faster and farther—would have an enormous lethal radius against submarines.

Unclassified data from the Yahoo and Baker underwater nuclear tests proves vulnerability of submarines and even heavily armored ships to a nuclear shockwave transmitted through water. According to the Department of Defense in "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons":

"An underwater shock acting on the hull of a ship tends to cause distortion of the hull below the waterline and rupture the shell plating, thus producing leaks as well as severely stressing the ship’s framing. The underwater shock also leads to a rapid movement in both horizontal and vertical directions. This motion causes damage by shock to components and equipment . . . Main feed lines, main steam lines, shafting and boiler brickwork within the ship are especially sensitive to shock. Due to the effects of inertia, the supporting members of foundations of heavy components, such as engines and boilers, are likely to collapse or become distorted. Lighter… articles will be thrown about with great violence, causing damage  . . . "

"For most cases of underwater explosion the water shock will be the important factor in determining damage," according to "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons."

Even assuming U.S. SSBNs are very robust, hardened to survive an underwater shockwave of 300 PSI (three times harder than the Atlas-F ICBM missile silo), the lethal radius of a 100-megaton warhead could be 100 kilometers or more.

An atmospheric shockwave would destroy brick buildings at 5 pounds per square inch (PSI).

An underwater shockwave from 100 megatons could deliver 5 PSI to a radius of several hundred kilometers.

Russian SSBNs need not be at risk from Poseidon because their intercontinental-range missiles enable them to strike the U.S. from port or from their heavily defended bastion areas near port, in the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk.

U.S. SSBNs armed with intermediate-range missiles must be in mid-ocean to reach their targets in Russia.

While Poseidon's real mission might be anti-submarine warfare, there is an even better additional or alternative mission for revival of a 100-megaton warhead like Tsar —including a better way to perform the anti-submarine and doomsday missions.

Indeed, Poseidon might be an elaborate ruse, a disinformation campaign concealing the real mission for their 100-megaton warhead — in order to achieve decisive technological surprise.

What is the mystery of Poseidon? 

See my report "Poseidon: Russia’s New Doomsday Machine," available on Amazon.com or read my next article in Newsmax.

Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Russian nuclear missiles and bombers can already blast and radioactively contaminate U.S. cities, destroy U.S. naval bases and submarine pens, as well as attack deployed U.S. aircraft carriers. The only mission not mentioned for Poseidon, is attacking U.S. ballistic missile submarines.
cold war, icbm, ssbn
Friday, 22 June 2018 09:09 AM
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