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Russia’s nuclear torpedo-equipped subs to begin trials in 2020

Tomsk in Vilyuchinsk. (Sergey Konovalov/Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)
September 14, 2019

The Russians are said to be conducting sea trials for a new nuclear torpedo-carrying submarine in June 2020 and have plans for it to be commissioned by the following September.

Project 09852 Special Mission Submarine KC-139 Belgorod, the nuclear torpedo-carrying submarine, is reportedly the first nuclear-powered submarine capable of carrying the nuclear-capable underwater drone Poseidon, the Diplomat reported Tuesday.

The Poseidon drone is referred to as an intercontinental-range, nuclear autonomous torpedo, as it can be fitted with a nuclear armament.

“The vessel has already begun trials,” Sevmash shipyard Director General Mikhail Budnichenko said in an interview on Monday, quoted by the Russian news agency, TASS. “Besides, we have a schedule approved by the Defense Ministry, and the work is being carried out in strict compliance with this schedule.”

Budnichenko said tests of the Belgorod, which is based on the 949A Oscar II-class of nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines, are scheduled for June 15, 2020. “In line with the schedule, the acceptance act is to be signed in September of the same year,” he added.

Russia is expected to have 30 Poseidon drone nuclear torpedoes by the late 2020s.

The latest development comes at a time when Russia has reportedly defied other previous nuclear treaties.

Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia will be developing a missile that was banned under the now-expired Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“Under the INF Treaty, the United States and Russia cannot possess, produce or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, or possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” NATO said in an August article on the former treaty.

Now that the treaty is expired, Putin threatened to make more nuclear missiles if the United States does.

“We said outright that we will not deploy (a cruise missile) after the Americans tested such a missile,” Putin said, according to a translation obtained by CNBC. “We will make such missiles, of course, but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class manufactured by the United States have emerged.”

On Aug. 5, Putin said if Russia obtains reliable information the United States is producing the missiles “Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles.”

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said.

Another nuclear agreement between the United States and Russia, called the New START agreement, is set to expire in 2021.

President Donald Trump said in April he hopes to renegotiate a deal to limit more types of weapons and maybe even include China in on the agreement, rather than extend the previous agreement.

“Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t,” Trump said in April. He added: “In which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”