A new Russian submarine packed with nuclear firepower and capable of taking out an aircraft carrier or even an entire city has sailed for the first time.
The 604ft Belgorod, the largest submarine to be built in the last 30 years, was put to sea for the first time yesterday as Russia flexed its naval muscles in the wake of an incident with British destroyer HMS Defender in the Black Sea.
Experts fear the 79ft-long torpedoes – dubbed Poseidon – could be detonated underwater to cause a radioactive tsunami and threaten coastal cities with waves up to 300ft high.
The enormous vessel is reportedly operated on behalf of the nation's secretive Main Directorate of Undersea Research, and is understood to be central to Russia's intelligence gathering operation.
But it is also believed to be equipped with up to six nuclear-armed torpedoes, each capable of carrying warheads with an explosive power of two megatons – equivalent to two million tons of TNT, or more than 130 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.
Dr Sidharth Kaushal, from the Royal United Services Institute, told The Mail on Sunday he believed the fleet of UUVs could be of strategic value for President Putin.
Dr Kaushal said: 'The Belgorod is large enough to act as a mother ship for a unique set of smaller vessels which have deep-diving capabilities and the ability to tamper with undersea infrastructure.
'It's well equipped for sabotage and clandestine operations. Its Poseidon nuclear torpedoes could also be a very effective means of attacking an aircraft carrier in wartime – one against which at present no defence exists.
'The Belgorod will not be part of the Russian Navy per se, meaning its covert and aggressive actions will effectively be deniable.
'The submarine appears set up for non-attributable Special Forces warfare with its commanders answering directly to the [political] leadership and bypassing the Russian naval command structure.'
In sensational scenes, video shows the moment a British warship was fired upon by the Russian navy with repeated warnings on Wednesday.