The weapon, known as the autonomous underwater vehicle “AUV,” is featured in a chart that lays out Russia’s multiple nuclear delivery vehicles in the draft paper. Its official name is the Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6. According to the draft report, the underwater drone has the potential to devastate U.S. ports and harbors. It has a range of 10,000 km, can descend 1 km below sea level, and can also reach a top speed of more than 56 knots (over 64 miles per hour).
The draft NPR, which was originally published by the Huffington Post, alleges that the U.S. has been left exposed because Russia has continued to develop nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. The draft paper appears to suggest that the U.S. has reduced its role in producing nuclear weapons.
“Russia’s strategic nuclear modernisation has increased and will continue to increase its warhead delivery capacity, and provides Russia with the ability to rapidly expand its deployed warhead numbers,” the draft paper states.
“In addition to modernising ‘legacy’ Soviet nuclear systems, Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers…These efforts include multiple upgrades for every leg of the Russian nuclear triad of strategic bombers, sea-based missiles, and land-based missiles,” the NPR also stated.
“Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle and a new intercontinental nuclear-armed undersea autonomous torpedo.”
This reference to an “autonomous torpedo” is allegedly the first time the Pentagon has confirmed the existence of such a weapon.
According to Newsweek, in response, the Pentagon released the following statement, which appeared to confirm the draft’s authenticity:
“Our discussion has been robust and several drafts have been written. However, the Nuclear Posture Review has not been completed and will ultimately be reviewed and approved by the President and the Secretary of Defense. As a general practice, we do not discuss pre-decisional, draft copies of strategies and reviews.”
According to Defense News, Russia reportedly tested the AUV in November 2016. Defense News also noted that the NPR offers “no sign that the Pentagon is interested in developing unmanned undersea vehicles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”
In reality, the draft paper provides a foundation for Donald Trump’s long-standing desire to be able to use nuclear weapons. After once reportedly asking three times in a meeting, “If we have nuclear weapons, why don’t we use them?” the draft paper has surfaced amid the Trump administration’s active efforts to try to remove the constraints that prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
Defense News helps us further understand the true motive behind the report:
“The NPR justifies this as needing to counter the belief among potential adversaries, including Russia, that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is too devastating to ever be used. Offering lower-yield nuclear options, the authors argue, will ‘enhance deterrence by denying potential adversaries any mistaken confidence that limited nuclear employment can provide a useful advantage of the United States.’”
According to data from Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris at the Federation of American Scientists, the U.S. has some 6,800 warheads. Roughly 2,800 of them are retired, 4,000 are stockpiled, and 1,800 are deployed.
Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, said that although Russia may have updated some of its technology recently, the notion that Moscow has more sophisticated capabilities than the U.S. is “almost certainly not true.”
“U.S. ballistic missiles are extremely reliable and very accurate and some of these weapons can be launched within minutes,” Kelsey Davenport, the Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association previously explained, according to TIME. “That differs quite a bit from North Korea [where] their missiles are unreliable, they are inaccurate. North Korea has only in July tested a ballistic missile that’s capable of reaching the United States.”