SAILORS’ TRUTH

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Yury Klyuev Izvestia, December 4, 2001, p. 3

Independent experts think that the main cause of the Kursk disaster was that the Northern Fleet was not ready for such an exercise. Most warships have not put to sea for ten years

General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov’s report to President Putin was based on commanders’ neglect during preparations for the exercise. Judging from the report this neglect was one of the reasons of the Kursk disaster. The exercise conducted by the Northern Fleet in August 2000 during which the Kursk submarine sank was the first fully-fledged exercise during ten years. The Navy considers such exercises as being complex because submarines, anti-aircraft units, missile warships, the naval aviation, artillery, and other branches of the army are involved in them. Judging from official reports, 22 submarines and warships, including the Peter the Great heavy cruiser and the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, participated in the August 2000 exercise. In all over 7,800 seamen were involved in the maneuvers.

Any exercise always has the main task which must be fulfilled. For instance, to destroy the aircraft carrier, or land troops. To set this task is the responsibility of the Main Staff of the Navy. After that staff officers prepare a concrete scenario: from where warships must move, in what districts they must arrive, what communication and security modes they use, and more. The main condition of such exercises is that all warships must be combat ready; otherwise they are not permitted to take part in maneuvers. Izvestia’s experts think that one of the main reasons of the Kursk disaster was that the Navy used unskilled crews. Warships can put to sea after the commander of the Northern Fleet (it was commanded by Admiral Vyacheslav Popov in August 2000) approves of the plan. It is natural that the Navy must inform foreign fleets about the zone in which the exercise is to be conducted, and possible dangers. The main goal of any exercise is to teach commanders to control naval groups. In the meantime, the crews learn to use anti-aircraft complexes, anti-missile systems, and the artillery. As a rule, missile and artillery shooting is the culmination of any exercise. Warships located in different zones must destroy targets using diverse types of weapons.

It should be noted that methods and tasks of the August 2000 exercise have not been announced yet. The press says that the Northern Fleet conducted missile and torpedo shooting and used anti-aircraft systems. Izvestia’s experts think that the last year’s exercise did not change from that conducted in the Soviet Union. The only difference was that the crews of Russian warships lacked 25% of seamen, and the technical plight of warships was rather doubtful. And the main fact is that the Northern Fleet used as many warships for the first time during ten years. As is known, fully-fledged exercises conducted by inexperienced servicemen and commanders turn into a death game.

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