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Russian military buildup in the Arctic includes a ‘Superweapon’

Borei-class nuclear-powered submarine Alexander Nevsky. Moscow has long maintained its goals in the Arctic are economic and peaceful. - Karen Graham
Borei-class nuclear-powered submarine Alexander Nevsky. Moscow has long maintained its goals in the Arctic are economic and peaceful. - Karen Graham

In a video released last week by the Russian Ministry of Defense, three nuclear submarines simultaneously broke through a continuous sheet of floating ice near the Franz Josef Land archipelago, in the Arctic Ocean north of the Barents Sea, all within a few hundred feet of each other, reports Live Science.

The subs are part of the Umka-2021 Expedition, meaning “polar bear” in the Siberian Chukchi language, and includes over 600 military and civilian personnel, including staff from the Russian Geographical Society

The three submarines broke through 5-foot-thick (1.5 meters) ice to surface within 1,000 feet (300 m) of each other at the same time, “for the first time in the history of the Navy,” Russian navy commander Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a televised video call.

While the Russian military didn’t identify the three submarines, The Barents Observer identified them as two Delta-IV nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and a newer Borei-class sub; the class name comes from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.

Each of the submarines can carry up to 16 nuclear missiles, and each missile is capable of carrying up to six warheads each. “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, scientific research, and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” Yevmenov told Putin in the video call.

The exercise is not intended to show off three submarines breaking through the ice in unison, because it takes away from the bigger picture, based on satellite images that show a massive buildup along Russia’s Arctic coastline, reports CNN.

The buildup includes Cold War-era installations that are being refitted, while the area close to Alaska now has bombers, MiG31BM jets, new radar systems, and underground storage for high-tech weapons. All this is being done to secure Russia’s northern coast and open up a key shipping route from Asia to Europe.

“There’s clearly a military challenge from the Russians in the Arctic,” a senior State Department official said. “That has implications for the United States and its allies, not least because it creates the capacity to project power up to the North Atlantic.”

The Poseidon 2M39 torpedo
Of particular concern is the “superweapon.” This unmanned Poseidon 2M39 stealth torpedo is powered by a nuclear reactor and intended by Russian designers to sneak past coastal defenses — like those of the US — on the seafloor.

The device is designed to deliver a warhead of multiple megatons, causing radioactive waves that would “render swaths of the target coastline uninhabitable for decades,” said the State Department official.

The Russian Defense Ministry released a video in February 2019 showing a test of a new nuclear-powered underwater drone, which Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his state-of-the-nation speech has completed successful tests. This was the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo.

In his speech touting Russia’s military might in 2019, Putin likened the Poseidon to a “giant nuclear-capable torpedo.” He said: ‘Tests are being carried out successfully with the Burevestnik cruise missile, which has unlimited range and a nuclear engine, and with the unmanned underwater vehicle Poseidon, which has an unlimited range. In this regard, I would like to make one important remark. Nothing was said about this earlier, but today it can be said that as early as this spring the launch will be made of the first atomic submarine as a carrier for this unmanned system.”

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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