North Korea appears to have developed its own 'Poseidon' nuclear unmanned sub

Called the "Haeil," North Korea showed off its new "world's most powerful weapon" during a military parade to celebrate the end of the Korean War.
Christopher McFadden
Screenshot from North Korean State media showing the new weapon on parade.

H I Sutton/X 

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has unveiled a new torpedo-shaped weapon that DPRK officials describe as the “world’s most powerful weapon.” Allegedly a large underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV), the drone is officially called the  “Haeil.” According to reports, the new weapon is nuclear-armed and, much like the Russian "Poseidon" torpedo, can create a "radioactive tsunami" on detonation.

Nuclear-powered and armed

Unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang on July 27, the new drone is so large it needs to be transported on specially modified flat-bed trucks. The parade was conducted through Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Few confirmed details are known about it, but the “Haeil” is also powered by a nuclear reactor. It can also navigate autonomously with possible remote controllability for redirection, command update, or mission abort functions. If valid, the drone could travel for extremely long distances in complete secrecy below the ocean waves.

According to North Korean state media, the drone has already been tested as an underwater nuclear attack "drone." During the test, allegedly conducted between the 4th and 7th of April, 2023, the drone traveled 621 miles (1,000 km) over 71 hours and 6 minutes. At the end of the test, the drone hit a simulated target too.

“The test perfectly proved the reliability of the underwater strategic weapon system and its fatal attack ability,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Its unveiling has caused much speculation among military analysts, most immediately comparing it to Russia's recently unveiled "Poseidon" nuclear torpedo. Like the Russian weapon, the "Haeil" is likely propelled using a pump-jet propulsor to its rear. It also has similar cruciform control surfaces, each incorporating a folding mechanism.

Claims about the North Korean drone's nuclear power capabilities are also challenged, as most believe (given North Korea's nuclear capabilities) it is likely battery-powered. If true, this would drastically limit the weapon's range, significantly reducing its threat to neighboring nations like South Korea and Japan.

Little is known

The weapon's size and lack of suitable submarine motherships in the DPRK fleet would also suggest the weapon must be launched from a dockside pier or jetty. It could also conceivably be launched from a specially-modified surface vessel. Whatever this new underwater drone's role and capabilities, North Korea is clearly actively advancing and broadening its strategic systems.

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