Russia Buying Underwater Weapons as Concerns of Nuclear Submarines Grow

Threats of nuclear proliferation by Russia have mostly revolved around aerial attacks, but the nation is quietly developing its underwater arsenal.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Monday that the Rubin Central Design Bureau is working with the Russian Ministry of Defense to develop over 10 types of various unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

The collaboration was confirmed by Andrey Baranov, deputy general director of the Central Design Bureau for Foreign Economic Activity and Military-Technical Cooperation.

Most recently at the Army-2022 International Military-Technical Forum in Russia, the Bureau presented its Surrogate-V underwater drone. Baranov said drones add a new, distinct capability to submarines that in olden days were just equipped with torpedoes, missiles and mines.

“Last year, we showed the first models of underwater drones of the Amulet type,” Baranov told RIA Novosti, according to an English translation. “Now we have a dozen different projects in development; we are working together with the Ministry of Defense. Rubin has the competence to create a wide range of underwater drones, from small to large.”

This development follows news that Russia plans to test the Poseidon “super torpedo” referred to as “the weapon of the apocalypse,” according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The weapon can travel large distances underwater, before exploding and causing a nuclear tsunami that could engulf coastal cities such as New York.

The Eurasian Times reported that the 14,700-ton Belgorod submarine expected to test the Poseidon torpedo is the largest submarine built in 40 years—second only to the Typhoon class. Its hull is approximately 604 feet long, with a displacement of up to 30,000 tons when submerged.

A Russian submarine takes part in the Vostok-2022 military exercises at the Peter the Great Gulf of the Sea of Japan outside the city of Vladivostok, Russia, on September 5. RIA Novosti reported Monday that a marine contractor is working with the Russian Ministry of Defense to develop 10-plus types of unmanned underwater vehicles.

The nuclear-powered Belgorod is reported to have left its base in the White Sea, possibly to test the torpedo in the Kara Sea north of Russia.

“The alarm stems from a NATO intelligence report, sent to the most important allied commands in recent days,” La Repubblica reported. “The report concerns the movements of the Belgorod nuclear submarine, which became operational in July. Now she’s back to dive in the Arctic seas.”

A NATO official told Newsweek that it does not comment on intelligence reports.

On October 3, an unnamed senior military official was asked about the Poseidon during a Department of Defense press briefing and responded by saying they had no information to report. The official added that “we have not changed our posture” regarding a movement of Russian nuclear forces.

A DoD official told Newsweek Monday that the Pentagon is aware of the reports signifying the development of the UUVs and declined to comment further.

The U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) reported that the Belgorod was spotted on the surface operating in the Barents Sea on September 22 and September 27, near the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia.

“The Belgorod submarine opens up new opportunities for Russia in conducting various research, allows conducting diverse scientific expeditions and rescue operations in the most remote areas of the world ocean,” said a July statement from Russian Navy Chief Admiral Nikolai Anatolyevich Yevmenov, according to the USNI. “The ship is designed to solve diverse scientific problems, conduct search and rescue operations, and can also be used as a carrier of rescue deep-sea and autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles.”

Although experts have said that Poseidon is scheduled for delivery in 2027, former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebekah Koffler wrote in a Newsweek op-ed that even testing the weapon would show Russia’s state of mind.

“Testing would be a clear signal by Putin that he is prepared to climb quite high on the escalation ladder to get Ukraine and the West to back down, rather than face defeat in a war he believes neither he nor Russia can lose,” Koffler wrote. “Make no mistake: Putin will not back down. He is merely shifting strategy.”

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Rubin and the USNI for comment.

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Nick Mordowanec