December 9, 2016

Russia's giant Kanyon nuclear "drone"/torpedo a discarded 1950s concept

In the 1950s Russia initially developed its November class submarines to carry one nuclear tipped giant T-15 (1550mm diameter) torpedo to destroy Western ports and naval bases. See giant torpedo tube in middle diagram above. However the standard armament of Novembers was quickly changed to eight 533mm torpedo tubes (which could still fire standard conventional warhead, or nuclear tipped (T5/T-5) torpedos (see lower diagram, above).

The giant nuclear tipped torpedo concept known as Kanyon ("Status-6") is again possible but unlikely as a viable weapon system. Note, at a reported 1600mm diameter, the Kanyon is only very slightly larger than the old T-15/T15 1550mm concept. This time one could fit into a converted and largely obsolete Russian Oscar submarine or a modern Borei/Borey submarine. See photos, artwork and descriptions in H I Sutton's Covert Shores website here and here


It is odd that a Russian scheme to bring back the concept of the Kanyon, large nuclear torpedo (or “drone” unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV)) has created such interest. Sheer novelty and rightwing Russian and Western propaganda may be at the heart of the matter. 

-  Note, at a reported 1600mm, the Kanyon it is only very slightly larger than the old 1950s T-15/T15 1550mm concept.

-  With an expected speed up to 56 knots the Kanyon would represent the world's slowest and most easily intercepted "ICBM with no MIRVs" due to its underwater limitations.

-  So the Kanyon encapsulates discarded technology in hardware and concept in a world that know relies on hard to shoot down SLBMs and ICBMs. 

-  Kanyon is easily detected by seabed (and other platform) SeaWeb sonar and other sensor  arrays.

-  Kanyon would be easily intercepted by US/Western deepsea UUVs or "bottom-rising" mines.

The Kanyon basically seems an unviable terror weapon which Putin can scare us with. The scare can then be exploited by media outlets here (Sept 8, 2015) and here (Dec 8, 2016).

Russian nuclear tipped torpedos

In the late 1940s and 1950s Russia (Soviets) developed an oversized 1550mm diameter nuclear tipped torpedo known as the T-15 (or T15). At 1550mm the torpedo weighed 40 tonnes. It required a one-mission specialised November class submarine to carry just one. The T-15 was intended to destroy naval bases and coastal towns by underwater explosion that resulted in massive tsunami waves.

The international trend of miniaturisation of H-bombs allowed the warhead to shrink to a 533mm warhead size. Also the Russian Navy was unhappy with a one weapon one-mission submarine so pressed for a standard sized 533mm nuclear torpedo that any Russian submarines (SSKs, SSNs or  SSBNs) could launch. The experimental 533mm torpedo was known as T-5/T5. In the late 1950s it became operational as the Type 53-58 torpedo.

From the early 1960s Russia developed an even more flexible solution in the ASB-30 533mm nuclear warhead which could replace conventional warheads on any Russian 533mm torpedo.

The Supercavitating torpedo VA-111 Shkval can be used to carry nuclear warheads. Being rocket powered the Shkval reveals the location of the launching submarine. Hence the Shkval is known as a “revenge weapon” where destruction of the Russian submarine is imminent.

US Nuclear tipped torpedo.

Not to be outdone the US deployed the Mark 45 ASTOR nuclear tipped torpedo from the late 1950s to mid 1970s. Instead of port/coastal destruction the Mark 45 was designed for use against high-speed, deep-diving, enemy submarines. It was a medium-lightweight 480mm torpedo fitted with a W34 nuclear warhead.


Kyle Mizokami writing for Popular Mechanics, December 8, 2016, reports :

"The Pentagon has confirmed that a new Russian nuclear delivery drone is real. The undersea drone, which carries an enormous nuclear warhead to destroy coastal cities and military bases, was tested late last month. The test was leaked by unnamed sources to The Washington Free Beacon.
Russia calls the system "Ocean Multipurpose System 'Status-6," and it is allegedly capable of traveling underwater to distances of to 6,200 miles. It can submerge to depths of 3,280 feet and travel at speeds of up to 56 knots.

The U.S. intelligence agencies estimate Status-6 will carry a multi-megaton thermonuclear bomb payload….” See WHOLE POPULAR MECHANICS ARTICLE


Possible 2009 photo of transport container or torpedo tube for "skif" (aka KANYON?) drawn  from article (in English) of April 21, 2016 . 



Peter Coates said...

Thanks Alain

I looked at an April 21, 2016 English language article regarding "Skif" which may mean KANYON

Article includes: [Status-6] "looked like a deliberate fake from the beginning. And by all indications it was. Moreover, it appears that the appearance of that Status-6 slide on TV was an elaborate ploy that had something to do with an obscure internal power struggle in the Russian ministry of defense. Details are elusive and not particularly important, but the word is that the episode did result in some very high-level MoD officials being interrogated at Lefortovo regarding the alleged breach of security. Nothing came out of it, however.

That does not necessarily mean, however, that there is nothing behind the story. In February, a Russian newspaper published an article that mentioned Status-6 and included a photo that shows something that looks very much as a container that can house the drone on the slide:

The caption says that it's a mockup of a "Skif self-propelled underwater vehicle." The article also has some interesting information about the project (although, as always, some skepticism is advised). It says that tests of the vehicle began the fall of 2008 and it is expected to be ready for deployment in 2019-2023. We still have time to figure it out.

Shortly after that publication, a reader sent me a link to another photo, which shows the container from a much closer distance:

As I understand, there is nothing inside yet - it's a mockup of the real thing. But the photo appears to have been taken in 2009, so the program may have made some advances since then.

Speaking of timing, Rose Gottemoeller was asked at the hearings back in December 2015 if the United States was aware of the Status-6 when it was negotiating the New START treaty. She said "unequivocally no." Which is interesting - on the 2009 photo the mockup seems pretty beat-up, so it had been hauled around for some time. Someone must have seen something. [Navy] [April 21, 2016] [#]"


Peter Coates said...

Sorry Alain

Looks like your original comment did not get past Russian censors!