THE KURSK WAS UNDONE BY OPERATOR’S MISTAKE

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Academician Mikhail Rudenko Zhizn (Moskovskiye Vedomosti), March 17, 2001, p. 26

SUMMARY:

Given the wrong set of circumstances, advantages of the Granit supersonic antiship long-range missile turn into disadvantages. The Granit is the major offensive weapon of strategic nuclear submarines of Project 949A, the class the Kursk belonged to. Granit’s technical parameters have allowed specialists to reconstruct the chain of events that ended in the catastrophe.

It takes a simple switch to change the flight mode of a Granit from high to low altitudes. If a Granit launched went into a low altitude trajectory thanks to the system operator’s error, the missile would have immediately acquired the submarine and taken it for the target. The operator would be unable correct the mistake after the launch. A launched missile becomes a wholly autonomous projectile that acquires the target all on its own. It probably took the missile less than a minute to cover the distance to the submarine, too little time for the submarine to dive even had the depth in the area allowed it.

Weighing tons, the missile pierces the hull of the Kursk remaining whole in the process. But engines of the Kursk are still working, and there is a lot of fuel stored nearby. It ignites. The fire rages in the first and second compartments for 2.14 minutes and finally five torpedoes in the submarine blow up.

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