DESIGNERS REPROACHED FOR KURSK DISASTER

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Vadim Solovyev Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozrenie, December 15, 2000

Although the Russian authorities are sticking to their official theory, many Navy veterans think that the Kursk sank because of technical defects. Similar accidents used happened in the late 1970s.

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Exactly four months after the Kursk disaster Commander of the Russian Navy Vladimir Kuroedov brought up a very uncomfortable issue for the designers of the nuclear submarine. According to Kuroedov, it is not clear “why exactly it is that Russian submarines sink after a collision with a foreign submarine, even though their reserve buoyancy is 30% (compared to 12% in the US).” The meaning behind Kuroedov’s point is clear: the catastrophe was caused by the technical defects of the Russian underwater fleet. The commander criticized the designers in the magazine Morskoi Sbornik, a special magazine for Navy officers. The attempts to shift the responsibility is not ambiguous. Indeed the theory that the Kursk sank because of technical defects has become dominant among Navy veterans. Eye-witnesses state that sometime between 1979 and 1981 a Soviet submarine under the ice of the North Pole almost sank because of a serious bug in the automatic steering system. While cruising at a depth of 300 meters the submarine in question unexpectedly changed course and headed for the seabed.

(…) The submarine was saved thanks to the a large safety margin in design of the vessel’s maximum depth and comparatively deep depth in the region where it experienced its difficulties.

The cause of the bug remains unknown. (…) Command still keeps this story a secret. But if the story is more than just a myth, it is possible that the Kursk found itself in a similar situation. But this time the sea was shallow (a bit more than 100 meters). The submarine, according to this theory, collided not with a foreign submarine, but rather with the granite seabed of the Barents Sea. The potential consequences of such a collision coincide with the official theory: depressurization of the chemical components of the engine of a torpedo loaded in the torpedo-tube, resulting in a fire in the torpedo room and explosion of the main store of ammunition two minutes and 15 seconds after the collision.

This theory is indirectly supported by the secrecy surrounding the results of the examination of 60 tons fragments from the Kursk which were raised from the seabed more than a month ago.

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The government commission remains silent, and does not want to announce the results of its preliminary tests. All this is very strange. At the same time the commission continues to stick to the official theory: a collision with a foreign submarine, probably the US submarine Memphis. What is most interesting thing is that the Pentagon is lending a certain amount of support for the official theory by refusing to allow even external examination of its submarines. In addition it is not clear why Russian reconnaissance planes simulated an attack on the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier. Specialists learnt long ago how many bombers are needed to destroying an aircraft carrier: everything depends on combat circumstances. Everything is known in advance.

What does the mailing of photographs made over the Kitty Hawk to the US aircraft carrier mean? Or the relocation of strategic bombers to dispersal fields in the Far East, which has not happened since 1993? All this looks a lot like a show of strength. Several times the Pentagon had to launch interceptors to frighten Russian planes away. It should be noted that it is the Russian command which circulated these facts in the media. The excessive verdict passed on “American spy” Edmond Pope who, according to an official theory, caused serious economic damage to the Russian military-industrial complex, also may somehow be a part of this larger group of facts. According to experts the Pope case is inconsistent. In addition the trial was carried out in secret.

In such a situation we cannot expect the Pentagon to consent to examination of its submarines. Senior officials in the Russian Defense Ministry gave the orders to attach the statement of Norwegian Admiral Einar Skorgen to the Kursk case. The admiral stated in an interview: “There was something wrong with the Memphis, which called at the Bergen port in August.”

The four months since the catastrophe have not been enough to determine the cause of the catastrophe. The Russian authorities are sticking to their official theory. They are ready to back their theory by rumors, though they have 60 tons of evidence. The US is giving indirect support of the Kremlin’s official theory. In the meantime, new theories arise.

(…) With such approaches the cause of the tragedy will not become clear even next spring when the Kursk will be raised, because the first compartment of the submarine is missing.

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