An interesting story out of Russia has been making the rounds the last couple of weeks, although it's been curiously under the radar - or sonar, in this case.
According to several rather alarming reports, it appears that a Russian television broadcast accidentally revealed details on a top-secret nuclear weapon. Specifically, the TV broadcast included images of military plans for a massive underwater drone designed to carry a thermonuclear "dirty bomb" into enemy ports.
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It all started when Russian TV broadcast a meeting in Sochi between President Vladimir Putin and some Russian generals. Television cameras happened to pick up a page in one of the general's briefing books on a weapon system called Status-6.
Analysts have characterized the weapon as a submarine-launched nuclear-powered drone, capable of traveling more than 10,000 kilometers underwater, and armed with a megaton thermonuclear device. Described as a massive dirty bomb, the device would create a "shower of radioactive slurry" if detonated in shallow water, according to one analyst quoted over at New Scientist.
The bomb would inflict "unacceptable damage to a country's territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic or other activity for long periods of time," according to Pavel Podvig of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security.
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But some observers are suggesting it's all just old-school, Cold War-style, intelligence agency gamesmanship. The thinking is that the "leak" may have been the kind of accidental-on-purpose message that nation-states sometimes send one another.
Russian officials removed the images from the state TV website and subsequent broadcasts, and "admitted" that the footage was accidentally included. But analysts cite the clumsiness of the video capture - and technical errors in the document itself - as evidence that the accidental leak was no accident at all.
The hypothesis: Russia would like to discourage the U.S. from developing missile defense programs that would, in turn, neutralize Russia's existing nuclear deterrent. By flashing plans for underwater nuclear drones, Russian intelligence is sending a kind of barely veiled threat. Spooky.
via New Scientist