Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Status-6 status update

April 21, 2016 (Russianforces.org) - After making a splash in November, the Status-6 underwater drone has almost completely disappeared from the news. Probably for a good reason - the story looked like a deliberate fake from the beginning. And by all indications it was. Moreover, it appears that the appearance of that Status-6 slide on TV was an elaborate ploy that had something to do with an obscure internal power struggle in the Russian ministry of defense. Details are elusive and not particularly important, but the word is that the episode did result in some very high-level MoD officials being interrogated at Lefortovo regarding the alleged breach of security. Nothing came out of it, however.
That does not necessarily mean, however, that there is nothing behind the story. In February, a Russian newspaper published an article that mentioned Status-6 and included a photo that shows something that looks very much as a container that can house the drone on the slide:

Russianforces.org
The caption says that it's a mockup of a "Skif self-propelled underwater vehicle." The article also has some interesting information about the project (although, as always, some skepticism is advised). It says that tests of the vehicle began the fall of 2008 and it is expected to be ready for deployment in 2019-2023. We still have time to figure it out.
Shortly after that publication, a reader sent me a link to another photo, which shows the container from a much closer distance:

Russianforces.org
As I understand, there is nothing inside yet - it's a mockup of the real thing. But the photo appears to have been taken in 2009, so the program may have made some advances since then.
Speaking of timing, Rose Gottemoeller was asked at the hearings back in December 2015 if the United States was aware of the Status-6 when it was negotiating the New START treaty. She said "unequivocally no." Which is interesting - on the 2009 photo the mockup seems pretty beat-up, so it had been hauled around for some time. Someone must have seen something.

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