North Korea recently revealed that it had tested its underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead against the backdrop of the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. It also claimed that the lethal drone could unleash a “super-sized radioactive tsunami.”

Nuclear Armed Torpedo

The state-owned  Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on March 24th that Pyongyang allegedly conducted the test of its “new underwater attack weapon system” in the waters off its east coast a day prior.

kim with torpedo
Kim Jong-un via Twitter

During the test, North Korea launched its suicide autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with a non-nuclear payload off the coast of Riwon County of South Hamgyong Province on Tuesday, March 21. It arrived at its target point in the waters around Hongwon Bay, where they installed a mock enemy port, and was destroyed Thursday afternoon after gliding underwater for more than 59 hours at a depth of 80 to 150 meters (260-500 feet).

“The underwater nuclear attack drone, which was deployed for a drill off the coast of Riwon County of South Hamgyong Province on Tuesday, reached the target point in the waters off Hongwon Bay set as a mock enemy port with its test warhead detonating underwater on Thursday afternoon after cruising along an oval and pattern-8 course at an underwater depth of 80 to 150 meters in the East Sea of Korea for 59 hours and 12 minutes.” | via KCNA report

KCNA added that the lethal submarine has been in the works since 2012 as part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) defense scientific research institute efforts on developing a new era of warfare weapons that would amplify its self-defense capabilities against “military and technical superiority of the imperialist aggressor forces.”

The strategic weapon was named “Unmanned Underwater Nuclear Attack Craft ‘Haeil’ (“tsunami”)” at the 8th Congress of the WPK held in early January 2021 and was briefly reported during the Defense Development “Self-Defense-2021” Exhibition in October of that year. Since then, it has undergone over 50 tests, with 29 personally guided by DPRK’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Its primary objective “is to stealthily infiltrate into operational waters and make a super-scale radioactive tsunami through underwater explosion to destroy naval striker groups and major operational ports of the enemy,” KCNA reported.

Moreover, this week’s test demonstrated the reliability of the weapon’s tactical and technical specifications, as well as verified its safety and lethal strike capability, noting that the underwater nuclear drone may be launched at any coast and port or pulled by a surface ship for operation. Kim has personally overseen this test.

Pulling Inspiration from Big Bro Russia

Following the news report, analysts have noticed the similarities between North Korea’s Haeil and Russia’s nuclear-capable Poseidon torpedo.

Like the deadly concept of Heil, the Poseidon torpedo is also designed to cause violent, radioactive explosions in coastal regions. However, some experts pointed out that, unlike the Moscow-built UAV launched via submarines, Pyongyang’s suicide underwater drone is supposedly conventionally propelled.

While this recent test launch of a nuclear-capable weapon may seem another mind-game kicker for the communist North, experts still think this should not be taken lightly, and a review of defense tactics around suicide drones should be considered.

The Poseidon UAV, formerly known as Status-6, is a submarine-launched, nuclear-armed weapon capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads developed by Russia as part of Vladimir Putin’s strategic weaponry unveiled in 2018.

It was originally part of a grand scheme by former Soviet leader Josef Stalin to have such a weapon capable of destroying the shores of the United States during the Cold War era. But it wasn’t until a half-century later that the nuclear torpedo came to fruition.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Russia would produce the first batch of the 24-meter Poseidon, citing Moscow’s state news agency TASS. It added that the super torpedo is set to be launched via the Belgorod nuclear submarine (K-329), a purposely-built craft by the Sevmash Shipyard.

The footage below allegedly shows a field test of the Poseidon torpedo.

More Missile Tests and Propaganda

Despite firm reiterations from South Korea and the United States that its joint military drills were solely defensive, North Korea asserted that these exercises were “a prelude to an invasion.”

As the allies concluded their regular springtime drills, dubbed Freedom Shield 23, last week Pyongyang on the other hand, has been busy with spreading its propaganda against the amphibious landing exercise. Apart from this, the latter communist country has also been conducting missile tests, serving as a blatant warning that it can attack US cities if they want to.

Various propaganda has been run by the North’s media outlets, with one outright rejecting the allies’ assertion that the drills were purely defensive and others stressing that the rising tensions in the region are being stirred by “hostile” forces, including the United States.