Victor Myasnikov Vremya MN, July 4, 2002, p. 3

Russia has many mysteries in its history. The mystery of the TU-144 disaster in Le Bourge, the mystery of Yuri Gagarin’s death, the mystery of Chernobyl. Now there is the mystery of the Kursk nuclear submarine. We still do not know what really led to its sinking.

The Kursk disaster will probably remain a mystery for all eternity.

The true cause of the explosion remains a deep dark secret. Conclusions of the governmental commission are classified.

The public is only told that explosion of components of torpedo fuel that led to the sinking was caused by a leak of hydrogen peroxide and inflammation of materials in the torpedo compartment. It is also told that the Kursk was sunk by the second explosion when torpedoes in the first compartment detonated.

One thing is clear: the nuclear submarine was indeed sunk by the second explosion. All the rest is not convincing. Yes, hydrogen peroxide can oxidize organic matter – paper, cloth, and wood. It can even generate heat and cause that matter to catch fire. On the other hand, how much paper or cloth could there be inside a torpedo tube? Hydrogen peroxide could not ignite oil. And if it could, how much oil was there in the torpedo? A hundred grams, two hundred? Enough to heat metal a bit, no more.

Apart from 1.5 tons of hydrogen peroxide, there are also 500 kilograms of kerosene in a torpedo. Had half a ton of kerosene been an equivalent of 200-250 kilograms of explosives, everything would have been different. Even if we assume that kerosene under pressure was injected into the torpedo combustion chamber and filled several dozen liters of empty space there in the form of aerosol, even that would not have equalled 10 kilograms of explosives.

But we know that there were 135 seconds of fire afterwards, the fire that heated the rest of the torpedoes until they detonated. What was there to burn? Paint, cables, oil? And do not forget thousands of tons of metal that absorb heat too.

The British theory – according to which the torpedo engine activated all by itself – would have been more convincing. Two minutes later the working engine would have heated warhead of the nearby torpedo and detonation would have followed. The 65-76 torpedo can travel 50 kilometers at the speed of 55 kilometers per hour. In an emergency, the torpedo in the container is automatically loaded into the tube and fired. The whole process takes 30 seconds. The torpedo is wired to testing equipment that is never turned off. According to some reports, there is also the system of dumping fuel components into the water in emergencies. For the first explosion to have taken place, kerosene should have been sprayed through the container. A lot of kerosene. In other words, one would have to pierce the container and the torpedo tank where kerosene is kept under pressure. Plus the tank with hydrogen peroxide which will provide oxygen. In this case, however, it is not the torpedo’s fault.

A great deal has been written about the “fat 65-76s”. They are outdated, unreliable, etc. And yet, just try to find any information on this torpedo. There are no problems with finding photos and circuits of the sophisticated and classified Shkval, but nothing on the 65-76. This is a torpedo that gets behind a ship and then catches up with it, so that no cunning maneuvering will save the target.

Exploding under a medium-sized ship, it breaks the vessel into pieces – even if it is not carrying a nuclear warhead. The United States doesn’t have torpedoes with this range, speed, or guidance system. The West doesn’t build torpedoes operating on hydrogen peroxide because some technical problems defied all the attempts of its scientists.

The authorities have spent the last eighteen months persuading the nation that the torpedo was to blame. Some were convinced, others were not. The Kursk disaster is now a Kursk mystery. The secret of its sinking will be in the focus of all sorts of assumptions and theories for years and decades to come. When the submarine and the torpedo are finally declassified, 30 years or so from now, someone will probably try to create a computer model of the explosion and fire. Unfortunately, they will not be able to prove anything. The hull will have been destroyed, and so on.

Russia has many mysteries in its history. The mystery of the TU-144 disaster in Le Bourge, the mystery of Yuri Gagarin’s death, the mystery of Chernobyl. The mystery of the Kursk…