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Dr. Putin or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Torpedo

The Truth Behind Russia’s 'Apocalypse Torpedo'

Poseidon is Putin’s showpiece. First revealed in 2015, this nuclear-powered underwater drone—one of Russia's next-generation nuclear weapons—is nicknamed the "tsunami apocalypse torpedo" for its multi-megaton warhead that could create city-smashing waves.

A succession of news reports have carried wildly disparate accounts of Poseidon’s capabilities. So is this another example of overblown Russian military vaporware or is there something more to it?

[...] Just how large? Initially Poseidon was described as having a yield of 100 megatons, even bigger than the Soviet’s record-breaking air-dropped bomb, Tsar Bomba. The idea is that this explosion could produce a giant tsunami far offshore, meaning the Poseidon would not even need to get close to the target and could destroy coastal cities from long range.

Poseidon’s size makes the 100-megaton capacity just about possible, though it’s a squeeze. In the 1950s, the Soviets planned a similarly giant nuclear torpedo, known as the T-15, to carry a warhead in the Tsar Bomba class, mainly because there was no other means of delivering it. However, in May 2018 a military source told the Russian TASS news agency that Poseidon’s warhead would actually be "up to two megatons." That’s far more realistic, but not enough to create an effective tsunami—if it could create a tsunami at all.

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