WHAT SECRETS MIGHT THE KURSK STILL HOLD?

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Viktor Baranets Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 22, 2002, p. 4

Waving a hand in the direction of rusty fragments of the aft compartment of the Kursk last Monday, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov announced that the investigators were through with their examination. The investigation now has to answer the most difficult question: what caused the explosion?

Waving a hand in the direction of rusty fragments of the aft compartment of the Kursk last Monday, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov announced that the investigators were through with their examination of the submarine and that the cause of the disaster was “more or less clear”.

Ustinov’s statement that the investigation had failed to find evidence of foreign submarines approaching the Kursk killed the admirals’ pet theory of collision. Ustinov did away with another theory as well – that the Kursk had been sunk by a missile dropped on it by the Pyotr Veliky or fired by another submarine of the Northern Fleet. (Investigators examined the load of absolutely all surface vessels and submarines involved in the exercise. All missiles, bombs, and torpedoes were accounted for.) The “fat” torpedo that blew up in the Kursk is therefore the major theory now. Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov indirectly confirmed the assumption (that it was precisely a 65-76 torpedo that went off) by saying at the press conference that “The trust of the Navy Command in the hydrogen peroxide torpedo was misplaced.”

Kuroyedov ordered all 65-76s taken off combat duty, a fact revealing in itself (the British Navy did so in 1955, right after the first accident involving a hydrogen peroxide torpedo).

The investigation now has to answer the most difficult question: what caused the explosion?

Investigators are now looking at several theories:

– The torpedo might have been damaged in the process of loading.

– Before the torpedo exploded, the submarine found itself in an emergency and had to dive. The depth was only 154 meters, too shallow for the submarine. It struck the seabed and damaged the torpedo tube with the 65-76 already in it. The torpedo went off on impact.

– Experts do not discount another possibility as well. The matter may concern faulty lubrication of the torpedo tube. Mixed with the leaking hydrogen peroxide, it could result in instant conflagration and explosion.

There are many secrets the Kursk has not revealed yet.

Investigators and experts have so far failed to reach on agreement on what could damage the hull of the submarine and effectively prevent the docking of deep-sea rescue craft.

At the same time, investigation has collected a pile of evidence showing that preparation of the Kursk for the exercise was accompanied by the usual Russian irresponsibility and chaos, which became a prelude (or perhaps even the major cause, in the final reckoning) to the destruction of the nuclear submarine.

This irresponsibility somewhat taints the heroic images of some submariners, but it is the truth. The submarine’s captain and officers did not comply with all provisions of the orders of defense minister, Navy commander, and even safety regulations. The rescue buoy firing system was turned off, and the Navy was all but blind when the submarine had to be found. There were other faults found as well. Unfortunately, not one of them answer the major question. What destroyed the Kursk?

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