Konstantin Getmansky, Dmitry Safonov Izvestia, March 22, 2002

Absurdities in the Russian Navy: components from decommissioned submarines are being reused. Installing salvaged equipment from a wrecked submarine is much cheaper than producing new equipment. This may be acceptable for minor components, but surely not the missiles from the Kursk nuclear submarine

It became known on Thursday that the Kursk nuclear submarine, which is waiting to be dismantled at the docks of Roslyakovo, will not be dismantled completely. Some mechanisms and gears will be reinstalled on other submarines of the Russian Navy. Deputy Director General of Sevmashpredpriyatiye Vladimir Chuvakin (where the Kursk was built) told us that this proposal was received from the Rubin Central Design Bureau of Marine Engineering. The reason for the initiative is the usual: installing salvaged equipment from a wrecked submarine is much cheaper than producing new equipment. Moreover, gears from other dismantled submarines had been installed on the Kursk, according to our sources.

Vladimir Chuvakin: “For instance, rollers and other stern-based equipment of the Kursk can be used. Despite of the disaster, many gears of the submarine are capable of operation. The appropriate decision has already been prepared and is now being coordinated with the departments concerned. I think in a few months it will be officially adopted by the joint commission of the Defense Ministry and Rossudostroyeniye.”

According to Chuvakin, afterwards, at the Nerpa ship-repair plant, where the Kursk will be transported for dismantling, the special commission will have each of the salvaged mechanisms examined to see whether it is capable of functioning properly. Doing this could mean saving many millions of rubles on repairs to other class 949A nuclear submarines. A modern submarine of that class is worth 1 billion rubles, not including weapons.

“Representatives of the Navy, experts from our shipyard, and representatives of other shipyards will be included in the commission,” says Vladislav Rimdenok, chief engineer at Nerpa.

According to Captain Mikhail Volzhensky, who was a member of the state commission on commissioning the Kursk, there is nothing unusual about the practice of dismantling the components from a wrecked submarine for use in repairs to other submarines.

Commander Vladimir Dmitriyev of the Omsk submarine, of the same class as the Kursk, based in the Pacific Fleet, thinks there is nothing bad about using the rescued components from the Kursk to repair other nuclear submarines. The Pacific Fleet already has experience of reinstalling component parts from one submarine to another. The point is that orders for replacement components should be placed, in accordance with the accepted procedure, several years before the service life of such components expires. If something goes out of order before the deadline, it is easier to replace a mechanism with a piece of equipment removed from a submarine in dock.

An officer of the procurement department of the Navy, who asked to remain anonymous, showed a rather emotional reaction to this initiative.

“Will the dismantled rollers be used? That submarine sank to the granite sea floor, a hundred meters… It was a miracle that the reactor did not become detached from the base after the submarine hit the sea floor. The rollers need to be finished to a precision of within a micron, to enable noiseless motion. If the rollers are damaged, it is easier to produce new ones than to repair the damaged ones.”

“Installation of equipment from decommissioned vessels on other submarines began in the late 1970s, when repairs of submarines built in the mid-1960s had begun,” says Rear Admiral (reserve) Yuriy Beketov. “This process only involved minor gears and mechanisms,” he stressed.

Due to funding shortages, “non-regulation” components which the producer’s designs did not envisage have to be installed in modern Russian submarines. Anatoly Safonov, father of Lieutenant Captain Maksim Safonov who died on the Kursk, told us that one officer on the Kursk took apart his TV set in order to find components to repair some missile firing control equipment.

During the construction of the Kursk and Omsk submarines, which were commissioned in the 1990s, repaired components from dismantled submarines had also been installed. The fate of 15 of 22 Granit cruise missiles, which were removed from the Kursk’s missile silos, is not clear as yet. It is not ruled out that if the experts acknowledge that they are fit for use (a preliminary decision about that has been made already), the missiles from the Kursk nuclear submarine will also be re-used by the Navy.