Russia’s Newest Nuclear Submarine Joins Northern Fleet

“The ‘Belgorod’ special purpose submarine, carrier of the so-called doomsday Poseidon drones, will be in experimental operation with the Northern Fleet before later to serve in the Pacific Fleet.”

According to the excerpted article from Norway-based The Barents Observer, Russia recently announced that its newest nuclear-capable research submarine, the Belgorod, will begin “experimental operation” with the Northern Fleet in Arctic waters.  Many of Russia’s research submarines begin their work with the Arctic portion of the Russian Navy’s specialized submarine and surface fleet designed for espionage, deep-sea rescue, and special operations.  However, according to the article, the Belgorod’s real mission is to carry up to six Poseidon autonomous nuclear-powered underwater attack drones.  The Belgorod is likely to join the Pacific Fleet as part of Russia’s nuclear triad when the Poseidon drone system is deployable.


Thomas Nilsen, “World’s longest nuclear submarine handed over to the ‘Russian Navy’,” The Barents Observer (independent Norwegian internet news service in Russian and English currently blocked in Russia), 8 July 2022.

An official press release posted by the Sevmash submarine yard on 8 July says the “Belgorod” (K-239) is a “research submarine”.  In fact, the vessel is built to carry one of the craziest weapons of mass destruction mankind ever has seen:  The Poseidon is an autonomous, nuclear-powered underwater drone that can deliver its nuclear payloads from deep under water after crossing distances like the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, stated: “… this is a significant day for us” as … advanced achievements of science and the latest construction technologies were applied….  “The submarine “Belgorod” opens up new opportunities for Russia in conducting various studies, allows conducting diverse scientific expeditions and rescue operations in the most remote areas of the World Ocean.”  … The statement also adds that the submarine can conduct search and rescue operations in deep waters as it carries autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles. There is no mention of the Poseidon drone weapon armament.

With the U.S. developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system, Russia started to develop a deep-diving response capability.  The Poseidon is a 24-meter-long torpedo-shaped vehicle with an estimated range of 10,000 km and can travel at speeds of 100 knots down to a maximum depth of 1,000 meters.  Powered by a small nuclear reactor, it could be armed with a megaton nuclear warhead.

The submarine likely carries six Poseidon drones.  The submarine also serves as a mother vessel for a deep-diving midget nuclear-powered submarine, like the infamous Losharik, a mini-submarine that got the world’s attention in July 2019 when its batteries caught fire and all 14 officers on board died. 

The “Belgorod” has an elongated hull of what was originally meant to be an Oscar-II class multi-purpose submarine, a sister vessel to the ill-fated “Kursk” submarine that sank in the Barents Sea during a naval exercise in August 2000.   The hull of the submarine was laid down in 1992, but only twenty years later, in 2012, the Defense Ministry decided to use the hull to construct this giant special purpose vessel.  With a hull elongated by 29 meters to 184-meters, the one-of-a-kind vessel is longer than the world’s largest submarine, the Soviet-built Typhoon-class. 

The “Belgorod” launched in April 2019, the “Belgorod” started sea trials in the White Sea last summer.  The Russian Navy has not announced where the “Belgorod” will be based for the period it will be in experimental operation with the Northern Fleet.  It could be Severodvinsk where the Poseidon drone development will be conducted or at Olenya Bay on the Kola Peninsula where the other special-purpose submarines of GUGI, Russia’s Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, are based.  Indications are that the long-term assignment of the Belgorod will be with the Pacific Fleet.