Russia is developing a torpedo equipped with a nuclear warhead described as a “doomsday weapon” in a new Pentagon report.
Details of the new “Status 6” weapon were included in Friday’s Nuclear Posture Review. It is described as a “new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo,” which could be deployed from beneath a submarine.
The torpedo could reportedly travel thousands of miles undetected underwater, before detonating and releasing radioactive fallout on U.S. coastal cities.
It is believed to be more powerful than any weapon in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, NPR reported.
In 2015, reports about the existence of the weapon first emerged, when Russian state television showed images of President Vladimir Putin visiting naval commanders in Sochi, with one shot showing an officer looking at what appeared to be plans for a Status-6 torpedo.
Pavel Podvig, an arms control expert who runs a blog called Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, told NPR that the weapon may not even exist—with the drawing shown on Russian television fakes designed to broadcast the message that the U.S.’ air defenses could not protect it.
"My read of the whole Status-6 slide leak is that the Russians were trying to send us a message," Geist says.
Another expert said there was no evidence that Russia was actively developing the system.
"The concept is a horror of the Cold War," Adam Mount, a senior fellow and the director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists told CNN. "It is clearly inspired by overblown Russian worries that U.S. missile defenses will make their missile forces obsolete."
"There is no indication from public information that Russia is actively developing the system, but it is alarming to see it in a Pentagon document," Mount said, adding that while the program is referenced in the Nuclear Posture Review, it is not mentioned in other government reports.
The Pentagon led review of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and strategy was commissioned by Trump after he took office a year ago. The president has declared his intention to expand the U.S.' nuclear arsenal.
The report warns of the scale of the nuclear threat posed by Russia.
"Russia considers the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be the principal threats to its contemporary geopolitical ambitions," the report says.
"The Defense Intelligence Agency currently estimates Russia has a stockpile of 2,000 "non-strategic" nuclear weapons including short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs and depth charges that can go on medium range bomber aircraft," according to the report.
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