What is Russia's Poseidon nuclear torpedo drone, and can it cause a nuclear tsunami?

Reports alleged that Russia is moving to test the Poseidon nuclear torpedo drone, but the Pentagon has no information.

 A mushroom cloud is seen caused by a nuclear bomb in this illustration. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
A mushroom cloud is seen caused by a nuclear bomb in this illustration.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

The Pentagon currently has no information on the testing of Russia's Poseidon nuclear torpedo-drone that would change the United States' strategic posture, a senior US military official said in a US Defense Department press briefing Monday evening. 

The statement came in response to reports in La Repubblica that NATO intelligence had warned allies that Russia's Belgorod nuclear submarine was in the Artic Kara Sea to possibly test the "super torpedo."

The Times said that that the weapon could also be tested in the Black Sea, where the Russia Navy has been launching ballistic missile attacks on Ukrainian positions to limited effect.

Russian state media noted the items on the Poseidon as reporting on the "fears of NATO" of the super weapon.

Pravda reported that Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said that unfounded statements by the media only increased the "information terrorism" by the Russian Federation.

"It's a terror weapon. It's designed to kill or traumatize the inhabitants of American coastal cities."

Former US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford

What is the Poseidon nuclear torpedo drone?

The Poseidon, or the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6, is a underwater unmanned vehicle that can be launched by a submarine. According to Popular Mechanics, it can travel up to 6,200 miles at speeds of 56 knots (Just over 100 kilometers per hour). 

While described dramatically by Western media as a "weapon of the apocalypse," it is uncertain how heavy the thermonuclear payload is. Estimates have ranged from two to 100 megatons. Each megaton is 1000 kilotons — and for reference, the Fat Man nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki by the United States at the end of World War II was 21 kilotons.

Can the Poseidon "super" torpedo cause a "nuclear tsunami?"

Former US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford claimed in 2021 that the weapon could cause a "nuclear tsunami" that would hit the American coastline, and that the resulting radiation would leave coastal cities uninhabitable for a long time.

Ford described the super torpedo as a crude weapon in the interview with Government Matters TV and said that he was unsure what it actually added to Russia's warfighting capabilities over other conventional or nuclear weapon platforms.

"It's a terror weapon," said Ford. "It's designed to kill or traumatize the inhabitants of American coastal cities."

wave ocean tsunami 370 (credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)wave ocean tsunami 370 (credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

The Poseidon's other capabilities

Dimitry Litovkin, editor-in-chief of the TASS military magazine, boasted that the Belgorod and other vessels of its class could "deliver up to 12 such devices to the coast of the United States."

He also claimed that the Poseidon had underwater loitering munition capabilities, and could lay dormant on the ocean floor for years before activation. He also said it was impossible to detect the drone at such depths.

The weapon was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside platforms like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which can also carry a nuclear warhead.

Nuclear tensions between Russia and NATO

Nuclear tensions between Russian and other world powers have been rising since the invasion of Ukraine. Russia has made veiled nuclear threats since the war began, but this has escalated since Ukraine began to make significant inroads in reconquering land occupied by Russia. 

The United States urged Russia not to use tactical nuclear arms last month. In Putin's mobilization speech on September 21, he accused NATO of engaging in nuclear blackmail and warned that nuclear winds could blow both ways. He also warned that Russia would use all means at its disposal to protect newly annexed territories, which would be considered integral parts of Russian territory.

Since Putin's warning, numerous Russian officials have waved the nuclear saber. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev specified that means to protect annexed territories included strategic nuclear weapons. Russia’s Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov penned an op-ed in The National Interest magazine on September 28 warning that the risk of nuclear conflict remained. Putin's Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov called on Moscow to use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield on Saturday.

Former CIA director David Petraeus warned on Sunday that the US military would destroy Russian forces if they were to use nuclear weapons on Ukrainian soil.