Russian Submarine Sinks; at Least 2 Die
Russian Nuclear-Powered Submarine Sinks During Tow to Scrapyard, Killing at Least Two Crew
The Associated Press
MOSCOW Aug. 30 —
A Russian nuclear-powered submarine sank in the Barents Sea on Saturday morning as it was being towed to a scrapyard, killing at least two of the 10 sailors on board, the Defense Ministry said.
The two nuclear reactors of the 40-year-old K-159 was shut down at the time of the sinking at about 4 a.m. about 3 1/2 miles northwest of Kildin Island, said the Navy's deputy chief, Adm. Viktor Kravchenko. No weapons were aboard.
Rescue ships of the Northern Fleet reached the accident site within an hour in heavy rain. One sailor was rescued, the bodies of two dead crew members were found and the fate of seven others was unknown, the ministry said.
The water in the Barents Sea was about 50 degrees where the K-159 sank, meaning a person could survive about 45 minutes without protective gear, Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told the ITAR-Tass news agency.
"It appears that no hope remains that any of the members of the crew are still alive," the Interfax news agency quoted Kravchenko was quoted as saying about 13 hours after the sinking.
Kravchenko and Dygalo both said earlier the submarine's twin nuclear reactors posed no danger to the environment.
The K-159, a November-class attack submarine, was decommissioned on July 16, 1989. It was being towed on four pontoons from its base in the town of Gremikha to a plant in Polarnye where workers were to unload the nuclear fuel and scrap the vessel.
The pontoons were torn off by the fierce storm, and the submarine sank in 560 feet of water, the ministry said.
The Kremlin press service said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was in Sardinia for meetings with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, had been informed of the sinking.
The sinking "testifies to how the sea demands discipline, it does not forgive any kind of blunder or mistake," Putin said Saturday while conducting Berlusconi on a tour of a Russian missile cruiser anchored off Sardinia. "A thorough investigation will be conducted."
Russia's last major submarine accident happened Aug. 12, 2000, when the Kursk sank while on maneuvers in the Barents Sea. All 118 men on board were killed, and the tragedy shed light on the troubles of the Russian navy in the post-Soviet era.
Russia has decommissioned about 189 nuclear-powered submarines over the past 15 years. However, officials say 126 of those are still are at docks with nuclear fuel in their reactors, prompting international concern about leaks and the possibility of nuclear materials being transferred to other nations or terrorists.
It will cost $3.9 billion to scrap all the subs, Russian officials say. Yet last year, the Russian government budgeted just $70 million for improving nuclear safety in the country as a whole.
Submarines of the November class, the first generation of Russian nuclear subs, entered service between 1958-1963, according to Jane's Fighting Ships. They carried 104 crew members, and the K-159 was designed to carry low-yield nuclear torpedoes.
A submarine of the same type, the K-8, caught fire and sank in April 1970 in the Bay of Biscay north of Spain while returning from naval maneuvers, killing 52 people.
Some familiar names coming up again from the Kursk disaster. All I can say is, reading some of the things that were said during and even after an official investigation, the Russian media and the Navy spokespersons continued to get it so wrong it's laughable. Maybe they'll get this one right. I doubt it.
The top brass know what's going on, but won't say anything, and pretty much everyone else isn't really in a position to do anything. If there are sailors aboard the sub, we can only hope, but I don't think relying on the Russians submarine rescue services is worth the time of day. Certainly based on the available evidence.
<font color='#F52887'>Try reading KURSK by PETER TRUSCOTT ISBN 0-7434-4941-X. It really goes into detail about the incident and give an insight into the mentality of the russian navy top brass. Those guys really went through hell in the time it took the navy guys to get there arses in gear.
P.S. Hi Digger.
Former Brit Military Expert -
Kursk Sunk By US Torpedo
By Daniel Stacey
22nd May 2005
LONDON - A former British military official has backed a sensational claim that the Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, was torpedoed by US forces in August 2000.
An official inquest concluded that the disaster - in which all 118 crew drowned in the Barents Sea, 135km off the Russian coast - was caused by an accidental explosion of an onboard torpedo.
But Maurice Stradling, a former torpedo engineer and a key figure in the original investigation, believes a new French documentary, The Kursk: A Submarine in Troubled Waters, should change world opinion on the sinking.
"On the balance of probabilities, the Kursk was sunk by an American MK-48 torpedo," said Mr Stradling, formerly a senior member of the British Defence Ministry.
BBC editor Nick Fraser called the claim a "pack of lies" and has refused to air the documentary, which attracted a record audience of more than 4 million when it screened on French TV.
The BBC used Mr Stradling as its main authority for a documentary it made in 2001 - What Sank the Kursk?, in which Mr Stradling theorised that the sinking was caused by the malfunctioning of an old-fashioned HTP torpedo.
Mr Stradling, who also appears in the new French documentary, said: "At the time (2001), that was a perfectly reasonable film, given the facts as we knew them then, when there seemed to be no third-party involvement,"
The new explanation for the Kursk's downing is based on film footage of a hole in the side of the vessel, and evidence placing US submarines in the area at the time it was sunk.
The French film shows stills of the Kursk raised above the water after being salvaged, with a precise circular hole in its right side. The hole clearly bends inwards, consistent with an attack from outside the submarine.
A US military source in the documentary declares the hole to be the trademark evidence of an American MK-48 torpedo, which is made to melt cleanly through steel sheet due to a mechanism at its tip that combusts copper.
The film suggests the attack happened while two US submarines, the Toledo and Memphis, were shadowing the Kursk in a routine military exercise.
The documentary says the Toledo accidentally collided with the Kursk, at which point the Russian submarine opened its torpedo tubes, leading to an attack from the Memphis, which was protecting the damaged Toledo while it retreated.
The cause of the sinking was covered up at the time in an act of diplomacy between then US presidents Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin - a deal that included the cancellation of $US10 billion ($12.5 billion) of Russian debt, the film states.
After the documentary received its only public broadcast in Britain, some claimed the Russian navy had drilled the hole and fed doctored footage to the film-makers to create a false impression.
THE KURSK SUBMARINE DISASTER: ANOTHER EVIDENCE OF A COLLISION. NORWEGIANS REMOVE THE VEIL OF SECRECY AND VIRTUALLY NAME KURSK KILLER
Igor Sergeyev, Russian defence minister, confirmed today in Brussels the words said by Rear-Admiral Einar Skorgen, former commander of the Norwegian Northern Force.
According to the admiral, Russian anti-submarine aircrafts did pursue on August 17th a foreign submarine escaping from the site of the nuclear submarine Kursk's crash.
Admiral Skorgen also said that Russian North Fleet aircrafts got so absorbed in the pursuit they nearly violated the Norwegian air space, so Norwegian fighters made an alert takeoff. Happily, violation was avoided thanks to a talk between the Norwegian Air Force and the Russian North Fleet commanders.
On top of that, according to the admiral, there was something wrong with the US submarine Memphis entering the Norwegian port of Bergen. Moreover, wives of 12 Memphis sailors were then urgently flown from US to Norway, the aim of their arrival being kept secret.
Sailors in dress uniforms stood at attention on a ship's deck Friday as wreaths were tossed into the gray sea to honor 118 of their comrades who perished five years ago when the nuclear submarine Kursk sank.
Ceremonies marking the tragedy's fifth anniversary were held around Russia on Friday, which just a week ago was riveted by another submarine accident that cast the spotlight on what analysts and the Russian media said was a navy ill-equipped to deal with such rescue missions.
"Where is the underwater technology that the navy authorities solemnly promised to get into shape after the Kursk?" the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta asked in its Friday issue.
Flags flew at half-mast on most Russian ships as relatives of the victims and ordinary citizens flocked to memorials around the country.
Wreaths were thrown carefully into the water in Vidyayevo, the Kursk's home port. Meanwhile, in the city of Kursk, home to 16 of the submariners who perished and the vessel's namesake, a monument constructed of the submarine's scrap was unveiled and, in an elaborate church ceremony, blessed by an Orthodox priest. Dozens of people, some weeping, laid flowers before the monument.
The Kursk, one of the navy's most sophisticated vessels, was rocked by explosions and sank during naval exercises in the Barents Sea on Aug. 12, 2000 — horrifying a nation once home to one of the world's mightiest navies.
Most of the 118 Kursk crew were killed instantly by the explosions, but 23 others survived for about eight hours, according to an official probe into the disaster. Many of the relatives, however, believe some of the sailors were alive for days, continuing to send desperate messages for help.
Russia's inability to reach the stranded sailors, compounded by officials' refusal for days to accept foreign help, astounded a nation that, almost exactly five years later, would face a similar ordeal.
On Aug. 5, a mini-sub with seven men on board became trapped deep in the Pacific Ocean, off Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. Again, the Russian navy was unable to reach or rescue the crew, prompting questions about whether any lessons had been learned from the Kursk.
This time, however, Russian officials sought and accepted foreign help. Nearly three days later, with oxygen and water supplies dwindling, a British remote-controlled vehicle known as the Scorpio cut the cables blocking the mini-sub from surfacing. All those aboard were saved.
The rescued crew on Friday briefly left a military hospital where they have been recovering to attend a church service.
"We decided to visit a church to give thanks for our survival," Vyacheslav Milashevsky, the mini-sub's captain, said on NTV television.
Speaking to reporters at a Kursk memorial ceremony in Moscow, Russian navy Chief of Staff Adm. Vladimir Masorin said that while the navy had bought foreign rescue gear after the Kursk catastrophe, Russian navy personnel were not yet able to operate it, something that Masorin pledged would be addressed.
"No matter how many vehicles we have, there never will be enough if we can't use them correctly," Masorin said.
He said an underwater rescue craft similar to the Scorpio that Russia previously had bought from Britain was broken due to a human error and couldn't be used in the salvage effort.
"Our people broke it when they started to use it," Masorin said.
Another Russian underwater vehicle that could have been used in the mission would have arrived too late to be of use. Officials have pledged to buy more vehicles similar to the Scorpio.
Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst, said that while the Kursk taught Russian officials to ask for foreign help, the "rescue service isn't working, just as it wasn't working back then."