Nov 112015


Putin TV: Russia’s Got a Dirty Bomb

A Kremlin-owned TV network broadcast footage of a meeting with Putin, with the camera looking over someone’s shoulder and getting a clear image of a page in a report detailing a design of a submarine-deployed “dirty bomb” designed to reduce American coastal cities to radioactive wastelands. Supposedly the Russian government had a conniption and censored the image from later airings.

The question is:
1) Is this what it presents itself as, with the Russians developing such a weapons system and somehow mistakenly letting it slip onto the air?
2) is it disinformation, intentionally aired in order to… what? Make people in coastal cities freak out for some reason?

The page in question:


Apparently this is a translation:

“Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6” and “Developer—Rubin Design Bureau.” And, below that, some explanatory text and illustrations.

“Purpose—the defeat of the important economic facilities in the area of the enemy coast,” the text reads, “and causing unacceptable damage to… the country through the establishment of extensive zones of radioactive contamination, unsuitable for implementation in these areas of military, economic, business or other activity for a long time.”

The design appears to be a large torpedo with a large nuke in the nose. It appears that it’d be slung underneath the carrying sub rather than carried within it.

Whether or not this is a real project or just the usual Putinesque disinformation, it does point out an important difference between the US and Russia: the US has a *lot* of it’s industry, economy and population in coastal cities, Russia does not. This means that America is more vulnerable to attack from the sea; a cargo ship with a nuke in the hold, or a nuclear “mine” lurking offshore big enough to make a good tsunami, can trash a city… but only a coastal city.

 Posted by at 5:26 pm
  • Sounds like what has been referred to as Kanyon.

    I was thinking that if it was real it would use something along the lines of the relatively new 20 megaton 8F675 (?) warhead which they recently pulled of their R-36s.

    However, that looks like a straightforward update of the old T-15 torpedo using some sort of drop collar instead of a big torpedo tube. Interestingly, that weapon was the original delivery system contemplated for the RDS-220, better known here as Tsar Bomba. The full yield, 3-stage version, set off in a harbor, would indeed qualify as a dirty weapon.

    When the Kanyon rumors were first reported I ran it through Wellerstien’s Nukemap and blogged about it.

    What struck me was the cratering effect of multi-megaton ground bursts. The simulation may be sketchy at these yields due to a lack of data on very high yield surface bursts, but it looks like such a weapon could permanently close harbors by plugging them up with trinitite reefs.

    • sferrin

      That’s what dredgers are for. If anything the new crater would make room for more traffic.

      • Scottlowther

        Under the circumstances a better approach to dealing with crater walls might be to nuke them *again*. Clears up the problem in a jiffy.

    • Cthell

      Is there much declassified data on shallow-water high-yield detonations? On an intuitive basis [and I know that’s a terrible basis for a theory] it seems like there would be differences between dry surface cratering performance and underwater.

      At the very least, it seems like it should mess up the thermal pulse and shockwave calculations, as well as adding a whole new “tsunami” effect.

  • B-Sabre

    I wouldn’t call a multi-megaton warhead a “dirty bomb” – which in a common parlance means a radiological weapon (radioactive materials scattered by a conventional explosive) rather than a nuclear or thermonuclear weapon.

    For more nightmare fuel, there’s this – The idea of scattering biological or radiological contaminants via sub-deployed time-delay mines….

    • Well “dirty” does refer to certain types of nuke. The U.S. B-41 came in clean and dirty versions. The clean version was around 9 megatons or so and the dirty version was estimated at 25 megatons. The third stage of the dirty version gives a LOT more ‘splody.. The max yield is estimated because it was never tested at full yield due to it being SO dirty that it raised environmental concerns…in the 1950’s. Likewise the “Tsar Bomba” dirty version would have been so radioactive that lighting it off in their hemisphere gave the U.S.S.R. pause.
      So, I think this may be a translation glitch. as you correctly point out, “dirty bomb” has, in post 9-11 layman’s terms, come to refer to a radiologically enhanced chemical explosives. In Russian military circles talking about nukes, it may retain its old meaning.

  • /k/ommando

    Seems like it would probably violate the Seabed Weapons Treaty.

    • sferrin

      I’m fairly certain at this point Putin could give a good —-.

    • Bold Gambit

      its not like Russia has been in the habit of breaking treatys lately…

    • James

      Russians have broken just about every treaty we sign with them.

  • Bob

    The real question is why has Russia been acting so huffy lately? The reason is its economy is in the toilet. Negative GDP growth all through 2015. When the economy tanks it’s traditional I guess for dictators to pick a fight to stir up some patriotic sentiment so people won’t think about their economic problems.

  • Michel Van

    So the Russian return to old habits ?

    During Cold War the Soviet “Attack/Hunter” Subs had nuclear armed Torpedo
    using in case of self defense what almost happen during Cuba Crisis or use it and attack enemy Harbors during Nuclear War.
    Now the Russian make modern approach to it, a nuclear power automatic drone with Nuke in it.
    hell on what remind me that again ?!

  • Siergen

    Well, a torpedo-delivered nuke would, by necessity, be a “ground burst”, and thus would generate more fallout than an air burst of similar yield at the same latitude and longitude…

  • Michael the Somewhat Civilized

    In 1951 the CIA reported the development of such a device. Polmar and Noot, “Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies”, 1718-1990, page 149. Jan Braemar, in “Soviet Submarines: Design, Development, and Tactics”, does not refer to any such device. I looked around in some other books and found nothing more, but I remember reading somewhere about a report of a 1950s Soviet project to create a 400-ton atomic bomb-carrying small submarine.

    • Nh_flier

      Tha would be the T-15 project. A monster the size of a small submarine, dating, as you say, from 1951. Those drawings in the image are a direct copy in terms of size and arrangement,
      The Soviets started designing their first nuclear submarine (Project 627) around it – since they weren’t doing so swift on intercontinental delivery systems at the time.
      The Russians have a habit of keeping stuff (including prototypes) around and trotting them out as some novel superweapon.
      This is both for internal and external consumption – the Russians get to feel good, and at the vrey least, the Kremlin folks get rolling on he floor laughing jollies out of the stupid incredulity of th western press – extra points for adding the secret terror words “dirty bomb” and “drone”.
      {Which sets off the amateur technical fanboys – (I’m also looking at you, AvLeak – i;s enough o mke you weep)) Claiming that it was all classified and shouldn’t ave been shown is just frosting on the cake.
      It’s like trotting out one of Scott’s cutaways of the Navajo or Pluto, and claiming it’s our brand new hypersonic kamikaze drone.