Twenty more go to Davy Jones’s Locker Yet another accident on a Russian naval atomic submarine Grigory Pasko, journalist On 8 November at 20:30 local time in the Sea of Japan on an atomic submarine of the Pacific Ocean Fleet, which had come out of the base of the closed territorial-administrative formation (ZATO) «Bolshoy Kamen», there took place an unsanctioned activation of the fire-extinguishing system with the emission of freon. As a result, 6 military service personnel and 14 civilian persons died, another 22 persons are hospitalized with various injuries. In total, 20 dead. According to the data of the Russian military, on board the boat at the moment of the accident were found 208 persons, of whom a mere 81 were military service personnel. Immediately, of course, there arises the question: just what were civilian people doing on an atomic boat in the first place?
This – is representatives of the shipbuilding plant, sdatchiki, as they’re called in the fleet [from the verb sdat’, which means something like “to transfer” (to the customer)—Trans.]. That is, they, the manufacturers of the atomic submarine and master craftsmen specializing in troubleshooting, adjusting and aligning mechanisms, having gone out to sea, would transfer the equipment to the operating organization – the fleet, represented by the 81-person submarine crew.This – is not simply civilian persons, this is, among others, former military sailors-officers.This – is engineers and highly skilled specialists. That the accident took place with their participation (and, perhaps, not even through their fault) bears witness to the profound crisis in the military industry of Russia.Representatives of the fleet are not reporting the type and name of the submarine. However, it is known that at the end of October, representatives of the Amur Shipbuilding Plant (city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur of Khabarovsk Kray) were reporting that in the Maritime Region had begun sea tests of the atomic submarine «Nerpa*» (project 971 «Shchuka-B», by NATO classification – «Akula»), which had been built at this enterprise.The submarine INS Chakra («Nerpa») was supposed to have been transferred to India for $650 million by lease for a term of 10 years. However, the Russian powers categorically deny the information about the lease.An investigative commission and a commission of Russian Navy experts is working. There are official reports about how they are regularly reporting information on the investigation of the accident to president Medvedev. This is not surprising: he no doubt doesn’t want to get egg on his face so thickly and embarrassingly as had been done by his predecessor V.Putin in the incident of the wreck of the atomic submarine «Kursk».Already there are statements by certain anonymous experts. Here is one of them : «Inasmuch as this is a plant boat, not received into the composition of combat alert, then in the first instance all claims to the enterprise. The fleet crew (during the time of sea tests) is found in the role of trainees”.The expert considers that the cause of the emergency situation could have become a human factor: “There could have been an error in the programming, there could have been an error in operation, which entailed the unsanctioned work of the fire-extinguishing system”.According to the words of the expert, the life-support system of the submarine is set up in such a way that during an emergency situation for the saving of the crew and the ship all compartments are battened down. People, in such a manner, found themselves in isolation in the compartment that had become hazardous.Representative of the press-service of the Military-Marine Fleet [Navy—Trans.] Igor Dygalo especially underscored that the boat does not have damage. The reactor bay is working in routine mode. Background radiation on the boat is within norm. By indication of the commander-in-chief of the Military-Marine Fleet, the testing has been stopped. A decision has been adopted on the return of the boat to a point of temporary basing.Judging by the scanty information, the testing of the atomic submarine had been classified, therefore in the official communiqués of the press-service of the Military-Marine Fleet of the RF it is not said where specifically everything had taken place. Nor is it given precisely how the people died.From the experience of investigating fires on the atomic submarines of the USSR and the RF, the following causes of fires and incidents are known:1. violation by shipbuilding plants of established technological standards and the requirements of the designers;2. fulfillings of works at a low level due to the absence of technical culture among the laborers of shipbuilding plants;3. unsatisfactory technical servicing of atomic submarines by the efforts of the crews;4. inability of the crew to act in emergency situations;5. lack of modern reliable emergency-rescue property.Besides this, certain specialists assert that the design, manufacture and transfer of ships by plants into the operation of the Navy must be regulated legislatively.Photo: Project 971 «Akula» atomic submarine (photo from the author’s archive)*Tactico-technical characteristics of the atomic submarine «Nerpa»:Displacement 8140/12770 tonnes,maximum speed – 35 knots,maximum dive depth – 600 meters,self-sustainability – 100 days,crew – 73 persons,armaments – 4 torpedo launchers 533 mm, 4 torpedo launchers 650 mm. Capable of carrying nuclear weapons – type RK-55 missiles.The «Akula» class atomic submarine is considered to be the fastest and quietest multi-purpose atomic submarine of the Russian fleet. At a speed of 9 knots, the atomic submarine becomes practically invulnerable for an adversary.