Russia just showed off a potentially world-ending nuclear 'doomsday' torpedo

Photo: Getty Images.
  • Russia’s Ministry of Defence released a video of one of the most inhumane and fearsome nuclear weapons ever created – and it’s purpose-built to avoid US defences.
  • The weapon, a high-speed nuclear-powered torpedo, isn’t like other nuclear weapons.
  • It’s designed to create a lasting cloud of nuclear fallout that could render thousands of miles of territory unlivable for decades.
  • But Russia may be bluffing about how far along the weapon actually is, a close viewing of the video shows.

Just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Donald Trump, Russia’s Ministry of Defence has released a video of one of its most inhumane and fearsome nuclear weapons ever created – and it’s purpose-built to avoid US defences.

The weapon, a high-speed nuclear-powered torpedo, isn’t like other nuclear weapons. While there’s a risk of radioactivity any time an atom is split, nuclear weapons have typically used nuclear detonations to create heat and pressure, with lingering radioactivity emerging only as a dangerous side effect.

But the new Russian torpedo uses radioactive waste to deter, scare, and potentially punish enemies for decades.

“Nuclear weapons only generate significant amounts of radioactive fallout when they are detonated at, near, or beneath ground level,” Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider.

These types of nuclear explosions “suck up dirt, or water, contaminates it with debris from the bomb, and then lofts it into the atmosphere,” leaving deadly radioactive fallout potentially strewn across thousands of miles, Schwartz said. What’s more, the bomb is rumoured to have its nuclear core coated in a metal that would make the fall out last for half a century.

“It’s an insane weapon in the sense that it’s probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.

Russia hasn’t specified how big the nuclear warhead is, but Kristensen said reports indicated it’s “anything from a normal yield to up to 100 megatons,” making it potentially one of the biggest bombs ever built.

Russia has advertised a simple mission for the torpedo: “Going in and blowing up a harbour with the purpose of blanketing a coastal area with radiation to make it uninhabitable” in a “blatant violation on the international laws of war, which require them to avoid collateral damage,” Kristensen said.

What the video shows us

Russia, which first leaked images of the weapon in 2015, released the video of the torpedo, called “Poseidon,” along with several other updates on new weapons programs. Putin announced all of the weapons in a March 1 speech in which he said they’d been designed to defeat all existing US defences.

The video of the Poseidon shows its stern suspended in a factory with engineers standing by. Lines across its hull indicate where its various components and chambers separate and indicate a large space for a warhead.

Analysis from H.I. Sutton shows that Russia augmented a test submarine to carry the Poseidon as far back as 2010, indicating a long testing period.

But Russia traffics in military propaganda frequently, and it may be bluffing on how far along its weapons are. The torpedo is shown only in a lab setting, and then the video cuts to a computer-generated simulation. The actual weapon shows its ability to steer in water, and doesn’t even show it can propel itself.

Additionally, the video demonstrates a new, only slightly less dangerous use for the weapon: Targeting US aircraft carriers and their strike groups. As it stands, the US doesn’t have a way to defend against fast-moving torpedoes like the Poseidon.

Take a look at the video below to get a look at Russia’s underwater doomsday device:

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