Ivan Gurin Zvezda (Perm), March 19, 2002, p. 2
Rescuing the crewmembers has never been the prior task for any incidents in the navy. This practice yielded its fruits in the case of the Kursk’s demise
Alexander Korlyakov is a Doctor of Technical Sciences, Academic of the Academy for Problems of Security, Defense, Law and Order. He had served in nuclear-powered submarines for 24 years, participated in dozens of campaigns, worked as a teacher with commanders of submarines of all projects, commissioned nuclear-powered submarines as a member of state commissions. Alexander Vyacheslavovich is knowledgeable about the reasons which caused the Kursk’s sinking.
Alexander Korlyakov: I would divide the reasons which caused the wreck of the submarine into two categories: technical and man-caused. The technical reason is that apart from the up-to-date ammunition, in the submarine there were also three torpedoes, the storage time of which at the depot had elapsed. The command decided to kill two birds with one stone: to execute the firing exercises and put to the sea-bottom the torpedoes, the service time of which had elapsed. As a result, this attempt led to a pile of corpses.
Why did the torpedo explode? To my mind, a cylinder with hydrogen peroxide, which is among the components of the torpedo’s fuel, became depressurized. I think this was the reason why the fire broke out in the first compartment. (…)
As for the human factor… The crew must know perfectly all ways to extinguish a fire in a submarine. The first is to vacuumize the compartment, then the oxygen burns away and the fire ceases. The second is to use the fire-extinguishing foam, which cuts access for oxygen into the fire zone. The third is to supply a chemical noble gas into the compartment. And, finally, the fourth is to flood the compartment with water. The fourth method is rarely used in submarines, but this very method should be used in the given situation, since the first three would not allow for extinguishing the burning hydrogen peroxide, since it contains oxygen, which sustains combustion. So, it was necessary to surface immediately, de-block the rear lid of a torpedo-tube and flood the first compartment. It would only take 30 seconds to surface. The crew had time to survive, but instead of surfacing, a part of the crewmembers activated the protection frames, while the other part, which was not participating in the struggle for the submarine’s survival, was transferred to the stern.
The following conclusion suggests itself: either no correct decision was made in the struggle for the ship’s survival, or the commander made it too late. Quite possibly, under conditions in which the “successful” exercises were underway and the foreigners were observing them, the submarine commander simply would not wish to “wash his dirty linen in public” and he decided to “cover it up” underwater. However, an endeavor of the submarine commander to conceal the incident underwater, to cope with it by his own strength was probably due to ignorance of the specific cause of the fire.
My experience of examining submarine commanders, mechanical engineers, mates, officers on watch, who were arriving for a pre-campaign training showed that their knowledge of methods to struggle for a vessel’s survival were unsatisfactory. (…) As before, the tendency to be ostentatious is prospering in the navy, something which has been and is among the chief factors of promotion for officers. Quite often the submarines put to sea with knowledge about malfunctioning equipment. By the way, the Kursk set out to the exercises in a sorry technical plight and, I repeat, with unreliable torpedoes.
Unfortunately, the bitter truth is that neither now, nor before, has priority been assigned to rescuing people. First, “the common property” is rescued – expensive equipment, newest military secrets. All of this undoubtedly took place in the case of the Kursk.