Russia Testing Nuclear-Powered Mega-Torpedo Near Where Deadly Explosion Occurred (excerpt)
(Source: Forbes Magazine; posted Aug 17, 2019)
By H I Sutton
Last week’s mysterious explosion in Northern Russia may have been caused by the Poseidon Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedo, seen here in a Russian MoD image.
Details are still emerging of the explosion of a nuclear-powered engine that killed at least seven people in northern Russia last week. Conflicting reports, rumors and speculation center around whether the engine was for a nuclear-powered cruise missile, codenamed Skyfall by NATO, or some other weapon-related reactor. One of the possible weapons in the frame is the Poseidon mega-torpedo. This new weapon is described as an Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedo by the U.S. government.
The unique drone-like weapon is in an entirely new category. Launched from a large submarine, potentially from under the protection of the arctic ice cap, it would have virtually unlimited range and Russia claims that it will run so deep that it cannot realistically be countered with existing weapons. It's designed to be armed with a nuclear warhead, reportedly of 2 megatons, which represents a slow but unstoppable death-knell for the residents of coastal cities such as New York or San Francisco in the event of a nuclear war. The Russian Ministry of Defense also claims that it will be usable against high value maritime targets such as the U.S. Navy's carrier battle groups.
It is massive, around 30 times larger than the heavyweight torpedoes commonly used aboard submarines, and twice as large as submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Specially constructed submarines will be able to carry six Poseidon each.
Unlike existing missile submarines, which are termed SSBNs, this type of submarine doesn't even have a designation yet. Possibly SSDN will be used to denote a nuclear-powered drone-carrying submarine. (end of excerpt)
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Russia's Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile, Fact or Fiction?
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Aug 14, 2019)
An explosion at a Russian military facility caused a spike in radiation levels. Some believe the incident occurred during the test of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile. What do we know about this weapon?
Russian President Vladimir Putin first mention of his country's brand-new nuclear-powered cruise missile was during his state of the nation address on March 1, 2018. He showed an animated video showcasing the guided-missile flying over oceans, avoiding air defense systems, circumnavigating Cape Horn and ultimately hitting a target on the US island of Hawaii. RT, Russia's government-funded intentional broadcaster, referred to the new weapons system as 9M730 Burevestnik in a YouTube clip.
But observers have been left wondering whether the animated video presented by Putin and RT prove this cruise missile, named Skyfall by NATO, actually exists.
Last week, a severe explosion occurred at a Russian military facility in the Arkhangelsk region, according to the country's state-controlled nuclear energy corporation Rosatom. The agency said five staff members were killed when an accident occurred testing "a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes." Three other Rosatom employees suffered burns.
The agency's statement raised a number of questions as most isotopes are radioactive and not ordinarily used as fuel for liquid-propelled rockets.
Following the incident, Russia's state weather agency, Roshydromet, said on Tuesday that it believed radiation levels had risen by four to 16 times in the area. Greenpeace said radiation levels rose by 20 times. Both of these figures would seem to suggest that radiation had indeed been emitted during the Arkhangelsk accident.
But as rockets propelled by liquid fuel do not emit any radiation, it is likely that the missile system tested in Arkhangelsk combines both conventional and nuclear propulsion systems.
While Putin has insisted that the new cruise missile was successfully tested in 2017, there is no independent evidence supporting the president's statement. Indeed, US broadcaster CNBC in late March 2019 cited anonymous intelligence sources who said Russia's new cruise missiles had been tested five times since February 2018 but crashed each time. CNBC also said the missile had never flown further than 22 miles (17 kilometers).
If the Burevestnik weapon exists it would be the world's first intercontinental cruise missile. This would make it strategically superior to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which follow a set trajectory after being launched, allowing them to be theoretically intercepted by missile defense systems.
In practice, however, ICBMs have appeared impossible to stop ever since the 1980s due to their great speed. US and Russian ICBMs can simultaneously deliver multiple nuclear warheads and overwhelm any air defense system.
How does a nuclear-powered propulsion system work?
A nuclear-powered rocket engine does not use energy generated through combustion to propel a missile forward. Instead, it does so by relying on heat generated through ongoing nuclear fission. Following World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union unsuccessfully experimented with nuclear-powered aircraft and carrier rockets.
While both superpowers built and flew planes with nuclear reactors on board, these were never connected to the engines, and the planes relied on conventional jet engines instead. The trials were to observe whether the aircraft crew could be sufficiently shielded from the radiation emitted by the nuclear reactors.
Radiation leakage is one of the major risks associated with nuclear-power missiles. While no aircraft crew is at risk of contamination, the crash of such a nuclear-powered missile could have a devastating effect.
In the case of a nuclear war, there is a chance military leaders and engineers would accept the risk of a nuclear-missile unintentionally landing on an allied nation. The Archangelsk incident, however, may already show just how dangerous this technology could be even in times of peace.