The Russian Navy has taken delivery of what is the world's longest known submarine, one its maker touts as a research vessel -- but what others say is a platform for espionage and possibly nuclear weapons.
The Belgorod was turned over to the Russian Navy earlier this month in the port of Severodvinsk, according to the country's largest shipbuilder, Sevmash Shipyard.Experts say its design is a modified version of Russia's Oscar II class guided-missile submarines, made longer with the aim to eventually accommodate the world's first nuclear-armed stealth torpedoes and equipment for intelligence gathering.
Other experts caution against any assumption that the sub or the Poseidon torpedoes may not be what is advertised.
"Transposing impressions of the Russian ground and tactical air forces to Russian undersea and nuclear forces -- in particular, impressions based on watching the execution of a pretty bad plan in Ukraine -- could lead to a dangerous underestimation of those Russian strategic forces' competence and capability," said Thomas Shugart, a former US Navy submarine captain and now an analyst at the Center for a New American Security.
"It would be sort of like observing the US's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and then as a result questioning the ability of its ballistic missile submarines to execute their nuclear mission -- a conclusion the US' adversaries would draw only at their own great peril."
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