By Pavel Felgengauer Moskovskie Novosti, No 31, July-August, 2001, p. 5
The aft torpedo compartment of the nuclear submarine Kursk will be left on the seabed this year. The catastrophe must have begun in this compartment.
The rest of the submarine is to be lifted, and everything possible is being done to complete the salvaging operation as soon as possible. This haste is attributed to 22 Granit guided missiles located beyond the major hull in special containers in the middle part of the submarine. The Granits have not been affected by the explosion. It is easy to get to them even without the necessity of entering the submarine.
The Granit is the latest, the most classified anti-ship guided missile devised for American aircraft-carriers. Even its appearance is a deep dark secret, to say nothing of technical parameters.
According to the Russian military, the range of the Granit is large (over 300 kilometers), the missile is autonomous, and its guidance system includes elements of artificial intelligence.
Foreign sources say that a Granit en route to its target receives additional information from navigational satellites – perhaps from spy satellites, and from AWACS-type aircraft. Had the potential enemy (which has aircraft-carrier in its navy) stolen at least a single homing warhead from the Kursk and established radar frequencies (main and auxiliary) and data exchange frequencies and protocols, it would have been a catastrophe even worse than the Tsusima naval battle, Russian admirals say. The Russian Navy would have had to seriously upgrade the Granit which it lacks the money to abandon the whole idea of destroying enemy aircraft-carriers.
Sixteen nuclear submarine of this type were initially planned. Two submarines almost completed can be found at the Sevmash docks in Severomorsk. Outfitting them with the necessary gear manufactured by the Soviet Union is not very expensive. Moreover, China may soon encounter aircraft-carriers of the potential enemy in the seas close to Taiwan. Beijing is interested in the prospects of buying some Russian submarines with anti-ship missiles or leasing them. The secret of the Granit’s guidance systems is not known to the West yet, which makes it possible for Moscow to get a couple billion dollars from China for the two submarines. Once the secret is revealed, the price will go down.
That is why the Northern Fleet has been guarding the Kursk. Surveillance and ASW ships are patrolling the area. The Northern Fleet has not been able to send its ships to the Mediterranean for over a year already because all its assets (ships, fuel, etc) are involved in the Barents Sea.
The naval aviation command says, “some underwater objects including submarines were detected trying to penetrate the area.” Between last autumn and now Russian ships guarding the Kursk deployed more than 50 depth charges to scare the foreigners away. All these explosions were registered by the Norwegians.
There is a legal problem here. The Kursk sank in international waters, and scaring foreign ships away is expensive and not precisely legitimate. Moreover, the Western military suspects that some Granits on the Kursk carry nuclear warheads. Moscow denies it. A Norwegian naval officer told this correspondent last April that Norwegian divers who had worked on the Kursk carried indicators which signified the presence of nuclear warheads on the submarine.
Actually, the Granit was designed for a nuclear warhead. The Kursk was a permanent combat readiness submarine, ever ready to sail out to intercept strike aircraft-carrying groups and large military convoys. At the same time, loading nuclear devices is a lengthy process. Shortly before his death in the Barents Sea the Kursk patrolled the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Was it supposed to spend months returning to the base for nuclear devices in case of a crisis? A non-nuclear warhead will merely scratch an aircraft-carrier.
There are no international documents forbidding the Kursk to carry nuclear weapons in a time of peace. In October 1991, presidents Gorbachev and Bush merely exchanged letters with unilateral obligations not to deploy submarines carrying nuclear weapons. Whenever necessary, such accords are ignored but nobody will admit it. Moscow does not want the enemy to be able to examine the Granit and its nuclear warhead. That is why the submarine will be surely lifted. We can only pray that everything takes place in accordance with the plans.