Russia Has Underwater Nuclear Drones, Leaked Pentagon Documents Reveal

Russia possesses an underwater nuclear drone capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead, a recently leaked draft of the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review confirmed.

The weapon, referred to in the document as an “AUV,” or autonomous underwater vehicle, is featured in a chart that lays out Russia's multiple nuclear delivery vehicles.

Pentagon officials warn in the Posture Review that Russia has actively diversified its nuclear capabilities, a strategic advantage it has over the United States:

In addition to modernizing "legacy" Soviet nuclear systems, Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers. These efforts include multiple upgrades for every leg of the Russian nuclear triad of strategic bombers, sea-based missiles and land-based missiles. Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed undersea autonomous torpedo.

The draft of the Posture Review was obtained and published by The Huffington Post.

In a statement, the Pentagon did not deny that the draft is authentic:

Our discussion has been robust and several drafts have been written. However, the Nuclear Posture Review has not been completed and will ultimately be reviewed and approved by the President and the Secretary of Defense. As a general practice, we do not discuss pre-decisional, draft copies of strategies and reviews.

As outlined by Valerie Insinna of Defense News, the Russian undersea drone, officially known as Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 and nicknamed "Kanyon" by the Pentagon, was reportedly tested in November 2016. It was launched from a Sarov-class submarine used to test and validate new tech, The Washington Free Beacon website reported in December 2016, citing unnamed Pentagon sources.

The Pentagon had not publicly confirmed the existence of Status-6 before The Huffington Post's report on this year's Posture Review.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Status-6 has a range of 6,200 miles, a top speed in excess of 56 knots and can descend to depths of 3,280 feet below sea level. It was built by Rubin Design Bureau, the largest submarine manufacturer in Russia. It was designed to be launched from at least two different classes of nuclear submarines, including the Oscar-class, which can carry four Status-6 drones at a time.

11_15_Russian_submarine The Yuri Dolgoruky, a Russian nuclear submarine, is seen near the northern city of Severodvinsk, Russia, on July 2, 2009. The Knyaz Vladimir is the first of five nuclear-powered submarines that Moscow believes will upgrade its navy. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/Reuters

The Posture Review reaffirms the need for a full nuclear triad, or a full range of air, sea and ground-based nuclear missiles. But, as noted by Defense News, the Posture Review offers "no sign that the Pentagon is interested in developing unmanned undersea vehicles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon."

The leaked Posture Review draft made headlines for confirming what many in the nuclear industry suspected for months: The Trump administration is vying to substantially increase the U.S.'s nuclear stockpile. The Posture Review also illustrates how the Pentagon plans to match some of Russia's new nuclear capabilities.

Fears of nuclear war have risen to historic levels, in large part due to the verbal sparring between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Those fears surfaced on January 13 after an emergency alert was mistakenly sent in Hawaii, warning residents to "seek immediate shelter" from a ballistic missile threat.