Key point: It could also be conventionally armed and fired against surface vessels.
The Russian Navy is on track to deploy up to 32 of its “Poseidon” thermonuclear drones across four submarines, according to Russian state media.
Citing a military insider source, TASS reported earlier this week that "Two Poseidon-carrying submarines are expected to enter service with the Northern Fleet and the other two will join the Pacific Fleet. Each of the submarines will carry a maximum of eight drones and, therefore, the total number of Poseidons on combat duty may reach 32 vehicles."
Poseidon is an underwater drone weapon, armed with a 2-megaton nuclear or conventional payload that can be detonated “thousands of feet” below the surface. This is meant to generate a radioactive tsunami capable of destroying coastal cities and other infrastructure several kilometers inland.
Poseidon can remain submerged at up to one kilometer, travels at a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour, and is programmed to execute three-dimensional evasive maneuvers in response to interception attempts.
When unveiling Poseidon at his March 1st weapons address, Russian President Vladimir Putin was especially keen to stress the drone’s maneuverability: “We have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths – I would say extreme depths – intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels.”
While the full range of Poseidon-compatible submarines has not yet been revealed, the TASS report confirmed that one of Poseidon’s first fittings will be the Project 09851 Khabarovsk submarine. Oscar II-class submarines will also fit Poseidon "after their appropriate upgrade," though it isn’t clear how many Oscar-II vessels will be repurposed to this end. TASS asserts that the each of these submarines will be able to carry and deploy up to 8 Poseidon drones.