THE KURSK’S DAMNATION

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Yury Golotyuk Vremya Novostei, November 30, 2001

The disaster which has happed on board the Kursk submarine may repeat on any submarine of this class. Neither designers, nor seamen know how to prevent such tragedies in the future

The first nuclear submarine of this class, the Irkutsk from the Kamchatka group of the Russian Navy, moored to the berth of the Zvezda shipyard located in the Maritime region. Vremya Novostei’s military sources say that first and foremost, the designers will have to “patch up” and “repaint” the submarine because a fully fledged upgrade program for submarines of the Antei class will only be launched after the state commission announces the results of the investigation of the Kursk disaster in the Barents Sea. Seamen say that it is not clear if such submarines will be used in the future if the state commission does not solve the Kursk’s mystery. In the meantime, it should be noted that submarines of the Antei class are the main shock force of the Russian underwater fleet.

The Soviet Union built 11 submarines of the Antei class (Oscar-II according to NATO’s classification) from 1986 to 1994. All these submarines, excluding the Kursk, are in active duty. Five submarines are based in the Northern Fleet and five in the Pacific Fleet.

However, not all submarines can cope with combat tasks or leave the port. The Krasnoyarsk submarine (the Kamchatka group) requires serious repairs. Funding for its upgrade and repair has been postponed over the last six years because of money shortages. The crew of the submarine has appealed to Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed and asked him to pay for the upgrade of the submarine from the regional budget.

The situation with the Irkutsk submarine built in 1987 was not much better. The military says that the submarine was sent for repairs to the Maritime region, but not to the Severodvinsk plant, which built the Irkutsk. Representatives of the Navy say that the submarine would not be able to reach the White Sea. The crew of the submarine was replaced because such an operation required people ready for any situations and emergencies. As a result, the submarine headed to the shipyard under the command of Captain Vladimir Dmitriyev. The crew refuses to announce details of that voyage but it is evident that it was a very difficult ordeal for the seamen.

Lieutenant Igor Vasilenko, an officer from the Irkutsk submarine, committed suicide when the Irkutsk arrived in the Zvezda plant on November 26. He shot himself in his cabin on board the submarine. Superstitious seamen said that the Kursk’s damnation haunts every submarine of the Antei class.

However, the main damnation of such submarines is their weapons. The Granit missiles have proved their survivorship: none of the 22 missiles exploded when the bow compartment of the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded. However, neither designers, nor seamen know how to use torpedoes in order to prevent such disasters. Experiments conducted in the Navy’s laboratories after the Kursk’s shipwreck have not answered the question why the explosion occurred, which killed the submarine’s crew.

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