A TORPEDO ALONE IS TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING

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Aleksey Alexandrov Rossiiskiye Vesti, July 11, 2002, p. 10

Reportedly, the torpedo which exploded was obsolete, though safe and reliable. So, the issue of a chain reaction of explosions remains open

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The widely cited official statement of the commission’s chairman Ilya Klebanov doesn’t elucidate the original cause of the submarine’s death: whether a torpedo exploded and caused a wide fire, which entailed detonation of the rest ammunition, or on the contrary, combustion and fire in the compartment caused the torpedo to explode and the second explosion of the remaining ammunition, which entailed the submarine’s rapid death.

For some reason, nothing is said about the original cause of the torpedo’s explosion. Was it a technical malfunction? However, each “item” (this is how torpedo and missile weapons are named in official documents) is thoroughly tested at a special coastal torpedo and missile-technical base and only after that is loaded onto a surface ship or a submarine with a special coastal crane. A special card, which specifies all operations the coastal torpedo crew has done with it, is set up for each (!) torpedo. For instance, a valve is closed – signature of an executor, a test and signature of an inspecting person. This procedure is done in all, even minor operations, during the entire cycle of the so-called “practical torpedo weapons’ preparation.”

It follows a general testing of its technical specifications in all parameters at a special stand, verified by signatures of inspecting and monitoring persons.

The system of inspection which has formed in the navy over years reduces a possibility of loading a malfunctioning torpedo to a submarine. The price of an error or negligence for safety of the whole crew is too dear. As far as our military observer knows, representatives of the naval anti-submarine arms office were denying a “torpedo version” of the nuclear submarine’s death from the very beginning. One may assume they had grounding to say so.

In general, the domestic torpedoes for both surface ships and submarines – diesel and nuclear – are considered rather reliable and safe. (…) According to the information at hand, a torpedo which was added to the regular ammunition, but which the Navy decided… to discard, exploded. To all appearances, this very fact became the cause for resignation of the commander and chief of the headquarters of the Northern Fleet still before the official results of the inquiry were announced. In essence, a torpedo to be discarded on board an up-to-date nuclear submarine is the first negative fact, proving organizational neglect by the fleet and flotilla’s commands. Initiative in such work as loading obsolete armaments on board is hardly likely. A version that unloading an obsolete torpedo was impossible due to… malfunction of a coastal crane was circulating around the fleet. Supposedly, no funding was allocated to repair it, so the Kursk was put to sea with a malfunctioning torpedo. (…) However, despite its obsolete age, even though it yielded to more updated torpedoes in the specifications, it was considered rather reliable. At least, this kind of torpedoes have had over a hundred cruises on board Soviet and later on Russian nuclear-powered submarines.

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