A broadcast on Russian state television of a Nov. 10 meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military officers revealed a document showing the design of a purported new underwater nuclear-armed drone that could rain radioactive fallout on enemy coastal areas.
In a Nov. 10 post on his blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, said the Russian name of the system shown in the document translates to English as “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6.’”
According to Podvig, a short summary included in the document described the mission of the proposed weapon as “[d]amaging the important components of the adversary’s economy in a coastal area and inflicting unacceptable damage to a country’s territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time.”
At the meeting where the underwater drone design was revealed, Putin, reiterating a long-standing Russian complaint, criticized U.S. missile defense plans, claiming they are intended to “neutralize” Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
Putin said Russia would respond by developing “strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.”
The United States says its missile defenses are not aimed at Russia but instead at smaller adversaries such as Iran and North Korea.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, in a Nov. 12 statement to the Russia news agency Interfax, said that “some secret data fell into the field of view of these cameras.”
“We hope such a thing will never be repeated,” he added.
According to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and current director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, the airing of the document was no accident.
“The picture was aired because the Kremlin wanted it aired and wanted the world to believe that Russia has plans for a large nuclear torpedo,” Pifer said in a Nov. 18 blog post.
“That fits with Moscow’s pattern of nuclear saber-rattling over the past two years,” he added.