Russian submarine Kursk (K-141)

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K-141 Kursk

Career (Russia) Naval Ensign of Russia.svg
Name: K-141 Kursk
Namesake: Named after the Russian city Kursk
Laid down: 1992
Launched: 1994
Commissioned: December 1994
Struck: August 2000
Fate: Sank 12 August 2000 with all 118 hands in 100 m (330 ft) of water in Barents Sea
Status: Raised from the seafloor, towed to shipyard, and dismantled
General characteristics
Class & type: Oscar II class submarine
Displacement: 13,400 to 16,400 tonnes (13,200 to 16,100 long tons; 14,800 to 18,100 short tons)[clarification needed]
Length: 154.0 m (505.2 ft)
Beam: 18.2 m (60 ft)
Draft: 9.0 m (29.5 ft)
Propulsion: 2 OK-650b nuclear reactors , 2 steam turbines, two 7-bladed propellers
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) submerged, 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) surfaced
Test depth: 300 to 500 metres (980 to 1,640 ft) (by various estimates)
Complement: 44 officers, 68 enlisted
Armament: 24 × SS-N-19/P-700 Granit, 4 × 533 mm (21.0 in) and 2 × 650 mm (26 in) torpedo tubes (bow); 24 torpedoes
Notes: Home port: Vidyaevo, Russia

K-141 Kursk was an Oscar-II class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine of the Russian Navy, lost with all hands when it sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000. Kursk, full name Атомная подводная лодка «Курск», which, translated, means the nuclear-powered submarine "Kursk" [АПЛ "Курск"] in Russian, was a Project 949A Антей (Antey, Antaeus, also known by its NATO reporting name of Oscar II). It was named after the Russian city Kursk, around which the largest tank battle in military history, the Battle of Kursk, took place in 1943. One of the first vessels completed after the end of the Soviet Union, it was commissioned into the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet.

Construction[edit]

Work on building Kursk began in 1990 at Severodvinsk, near Arkhangelsk. Launched in 1994, it was commissioned in December of that year.[1] It was the penultimate Oscar II class submarine designed and approved in the Soviet era. At 154 m (505 ft 3 in) long, 24 m (78 ft 9 in) wide, and 18.2 m (59 ft 9 in) high,[2] she was the largest attack submarine ever built.

Capabilities[edit]

The Antey design represented the highest achievement of Soviet nuclear submarine technology. They were the largest attack submarines ever built.[3]:22–23 It was built to defeat an entire United States aircraft carrier group. A single Type 65 torpedo carried a large 450 kilograms (990 lb) warhead that is powerful enough to sink an aircraft carrier.[4] The missiles and torpedoes could all be equipped with nuclear warheads. She was 30 feet (9.1 m) longer than any other Oscar I-class submarine. It held many luxuries for its crew. The senior officers all had their own staterooms, and the entire crew had access to a gymnasium, solarium, swimming pool, sauna, aviary, and aquarium.[2][5]

The outer hull, made of high-nickel, high-chrome content stainless steel 8.5 millimetres (0.33 in) thick, had exceptionally good resistance to corrosion and a weak magnetic signature which helped prevent detection by U.S. magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) systems. There was a 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) gap to the 50.8 millimetres (2.00 in)-thick steel pressure hull.[6] She was designed to remain submerged for up to 120 days. The sail superstructure was reinforced to allow it to break through the Arctic ice.[1] The submarine was armed with 24 SS-N-19/P-700 Granit cruise missiles, and eight torpedo tubes in the bow: four 533 mm (21.0 in) and four 650 mm (26 in). The Granit missiles had a range of 550 kilometres (340 mi), were capable of supersonic flight at altitudes over 20 kilometres (12 mi), were designed to swarm enemy vessels and intelligently choose individual targets which terminated with a dive onto the target.[2] The torpedo tubes could be used to launch either torpedoes and anti-ship missiles with a range of 50 kilometres (31 mi). The weaponry included 18 SS-N-16 "Stallion" anti-ship missiles that were designed to defeat the best Western naval air defenses.[1]

Kursk was part of Russia's Northern Fleet, which had suffered funding cutbacks throughout the 1990s. Many of its submarines were anchored and rusting in Zapadnaya Litsa Naval Base, 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Murmansk.[7] Little work to maintain all but the most essential front-line equipment, including search and rescue equipment, had occurred. Northern Fleet sailors had gone unpaid in the mid-1990s.[1]

Deployments[edit]

During its five years of service, Kursk completed only one mission, a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean during the summer of 1999 to monitor the United States Sixth Fleet responding to the Kosovo crisis.[8]:215 This was due to a lack of funds for fuel. As a result, many of its crew had spent little time at sea and were inexperienced.[3]

Naval exercise and disaster[edit]

Kursk joined the "Summer-X" exercise, the first large-scale naval exercise planned by the Russian Navy in more than a decade,[9] on 10 August 2000. It included 30 ships including the fleet's flagship Pyotr Velikiy ("Peter the Great"), four attack submarines,[1] and a flotilla of smaller ships. The crew had recently won a citation for its excellent performance and been recognized as the best submarine crew in the Northern Fleet.[10] While it was an exercise, Kursk loaded a full complement of combat weapons. It was one of the few ships authorized to carry a combat load at all times.

Explosion[edit]

On the first day of the exercise, Kursk successfully launched a Granit missile armed with a dummy warhead.[1] Two days later, on the morning of 12 August, she prepared to fire dummy torpedoes at the Kirov-class battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy. These practice torpedoes had no explosive warheads and were manufactured and tested at a much lower quality standard.[11] On 12 August 2000, at 11:28 local time (07:28 UTC), there was an explosion while preparing to fire.[12] The Russian Navy's final report on the disaster concluded the explosion was due to the failure of one of Kursk's hydrogen peroxide-fueled Type 65 torpedoes.[13] A subsequent investigation concluded that HTP, a form of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide used as propellant for the torpedo, seeped through a faulty weld in the torpedo casing.[14] When HTP comes in contact with a catalyst, it rapidly expands 5000 times, generating vast quantities of steam and oxygen. The pressure produced by the expanding HTP ruptured the kerosene fuel[clarification needed] in the torpedo and set off an explosion equal to 100–250 kilograms (220–550 lb) of TNT. The submarine sank in relatively shallow water, bottoming at 108 metres (354 ft) about 135 kilometres (84 mi) off Severomorsk, at 69°40′N 37°35′E / 69.667°N 37.583°E / 69.667; 37.583. A second explosion 135 seconds after the initial event was equivalent to 3-7 tons of TNT.[15] The explosions blew a large hole in the hull and collapsed the first three compartments of the sub, killing or incapacitating all but 23 of the 118 personnel on board.[8]:208

Rescue attempts[edit]

Though the American, British and Norwegian navies offered assistance, Russia refused all help. All 118 sailors and officers aboard Kursk perished. The Russian Admiralty initially told the public that the majority of the crew died within minutes of the explosion, but on August 21 Norwegian and Russian divers found 24 bodies in the ninth compartment, the turbine room at the stern of the boat. Captain-lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikov wrote a note listing the names of 23 sailors who were alive in the compartment after the ship sank.

A potassium superoxide cartridge of a chemical oxygen generator, used to absorb carbon dioxide and chemically release oxygen to enable survival, appears to have been the cause of the survivors' death. The investigation found a cartridge had come in contact with the sea water inside the ninth compartment, causing a chemical reaction and a flash fire. The investigation showed that some men temporarily survived this fire by plunging under water, as fire marks on the bulkheads indicated the water was at waist level at the time. But the fire consumed all remaining oxygen, killing the remaining survivors.[16]

Russia's then President Vladimir Putin, though immediately informed of the tragedy, was told by the navy that they had the situation under control and rescue was imminent. He waited five days before he ended his holiday at a presidential resort in subtropical Sochi on the Black Sea. Only four months into his tenure as President, the public and media were extremely critical of Putin's decision to remain at a seaside resort, and his highly favourable ratings dropped dramatically.[17] The President's response appeared callous and the government's actions looked incompetent.[18] A year later he said, "I probably should have returned to Moscow, but nothing would have changed. I had the same level of communication both in Sochi and in Moscow, but from a PR point of view I could have demonstrated some special eagerness to return."[19]

Submarine recovery[edit]

Submarine wreck after the disaster

A consortium formed by the Dutch companies Mammoet and Smit International[20] was awarded a contract by Russia to raise the vessel, excluding the bow. They modified the barge Giant 4 which eventually raised Kursk and recovered the remains of the sailors.[21]

When the salvage operation raised the boat in 2001, there were considerable fears that preparing to move the wreck could trigger explosions. But the salvage team first cut the bow off using a tungsten carbide-studded cable. This tool had the potential to cause sparks which would ignite remaining pockets of volatile gases, such as hydrogen. The successfully recovered portion of Kursk was towed to Severomorsk and placed in a floating dry dock where extensive forensic analysis was accomplished.

The remains of Kursk's reactor compartment were towed to Sayda Bay on Russia's northern Kola Peninsula – where more than 50 reactor compartments were afloat at pier points – after a shipyard had defuelled the boat in early 2003.[22] The rest of the boat was then dismantled for scrap.

In the end the bow was not recovered and was destroyed by explosives in 2002. Only small pieces of the bow were recovered (some torpedo and torpedo tube fragments).

Official inquiry results[edit]

Finally pushing aside the Navy's long-standing blame on a collision with a foreign vessel, a report issued by the government attributed the disaster to a torpedo explosion caused when high-test peroxide (HTP), a form of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, leaked from a faulty weld in the torpedo's casing.[4][10][23] The report found that the initial explosion destroyed the torpedo room compartment and killed everyone in the first compartment.[24][25] The blast entered the second and perhaps the third and fourth compartments through an air conditioning vent. All of the 36 men in the command post located in the second compartment were immediately incapacitated by the blast wave and possibly killed.[26] The first explosion caused a fire that raised the temperature of the compartment to more than 2,700 °C (4,890 °F).[27] The heat triggered the warheads of between five to seven additional torpedoes to detonate, creating an explosion equivalent to 2-3 tons of TNT.[28] that was measured 4.2 on the Richter scale on seismographs across Europe[29] and was detected as far away as Alaska.[30]

Other explanation[edit]

Vice-Admiral Valery Ryazantsev differed with the government's official conclusion. He cited inadequate training, poor maintenance, and incomplete inspections that caused the crew to mishandle the weapon.[31] During the examination of the wrecked sub, investigators recovered a partially burned copy of the safety instructions for loading HTP torpedoes, but the instructions were for a significantly different type of torpedo and failed to include essential steps for testing an air valve. The 7th Division, 1st Submarine Flotilla never inspected Kursk's crew's qualifications and readiness to fire HTP torpedoes.[25] The Kursk's crew had no prior experience with and hadn't been trained in handling or firing HTP powered torpedoes. Due to their inexperience and lack of training, compounded by incomplete inspections and oversight, and because the Kursk's crew followed faulty instructions when loading the practice torpedo, Ryazantsev believes they set off a chain of events that led to the explosion.[3]:35[32]

See also[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Gary Weir and Walter Boyne (2003), Rising Tide: The untold story of the Russian submarines that fought the Cold War, Basic Books, NY, NY.
  • Ramsey Flynn (2004), Cry from the Deep: The Submarine Disaster That Riveted the World and Put the New Russia to the Ultimate Test, Harper Collins.
  • Dunmore, S. (2002). Lost Subs : From the Hunley to the Kursk, the greatest submarines ever lost-and found. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo. ISBN 0-306-81140-5
  • Sea Pheonix (2005) by Rear Admiral Mian Zahir Shah explains the Kursk disaster on many places. ISBN 978-9698318048

Music[edit]

  • The first vocal album of the Russian singer, actress and composer Katerina Ksenyeva, "Lullaby for a Man, starts with her rock ballad "Lullaby for a Man" about the crew of the Kursk.
  • Russian band DDT or ДДТ wrote a song called Kapitan Kolesnikov, or Капитан Колесников about the Kursk.
  • "Barren the Sea" - song about the incident, by Sequoya
  • Scottish band Mogwai wrote the song Travel Is Dangerous about the tragedy from the viewpoint of the men who perished on board the Kursk.
  • Swedish heavy metal band Wolf wrote a song called K-141 Kursk detailing the events of the disaster
  • Canadian musician Loscil wrote a song called Kursk - an ambient music piece on his album, Submers - an album dedicated to different submarines.
  • English musician Matt Elliott wrote the song The Kursk about the thoughts of a man trapped in the sunken ship.
  • Hungarian metal band Cool Head Clan wrote a song Torpedó about the tragedy of Kursk.
  • Australian composer David Chisholm collaborated with Russian poet Anzhelina Polonskaya on an oratorio requiem KURSK, for 10 voices and chamber orchestra that premiered at the 2011 Melbourne Festival to five star reviews.[33]

Theatre[edit]

  • The Kursk - play about the trapped survivors, By Sasha Janowicz.
  • Kursk - a play by playwright Bryony Lavery from the British point of view.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Potts, J.R. (5/9/2013). "K-141 Kursk Attack Submarine (1994)". MilitaryFactory.com. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Kursk Stats". 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Barany, Zoltan (2007). Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 32. ISBN 9781400828043. 
  4. ^ a b "Weapon". Weaponsystems.net. Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
  5. ^ Moore, Robert. "A Time to Die 0". Random House. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  6. ^ N. A. "Kursk Inner Hull Breached." Australian, The (n.d.): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 7 December 2011.
  7. ^ Andreyeva Bay is a ticking bomb, Bellona’s documents prove – Rashid Alimov, Bellona Foundation, Oslo, 7 June 2007. Retrieved on 8 August 2007.
  8. ^ a b Underwood, Lamar (editor) (2005). The Greatest Submarine Stories Ever Told: Dive! Dive! Fourteen Unforgettable Stories from the Deep. Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1592287338. 
  9. ^ "Russian Sub Has 'Terrifying Hole'". 18 August 2000. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Brannon, Robert (April 13, 2009). Russian civil-military Relations. Farnham, England: Ashgate Publishers. p. 140. ISBN 978-0754675914. 
  11. ^ Dikkenberg, John. "Raising the Kursk." Sydney Morning Herald. 19 October 2001: 15. Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 7 December 2011.
  12. ^ Debra Rosenberg et al. "A Mystery In The Deep." Newsweek 136.9 (2000): 34. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 December 2011.
  13. ^ Sviatov, George. "The Kursk's Loss Offers Lessons." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 129.6 (2003): 71. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 December 2011.
  14. ^ Marshall, Geoff (July 2008), "The Loss of the HMS Sidon", In Depth (Submarines Association Australia) 28 (4), retrieved 2 September 2010 
  15. ^ "template" (PDF). Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  16. ^ Moore, Robert (2003). A Time to Die–The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy. New York: Crown Publishers, Random House. pp. 65–66. ISBN 0-609-61000-7. 
  17. ^ "Kursk closure leaves questions unanswered". BBC News. 31 July 2002. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Kursk Relatives Make a Plea for Facts and Justice". St. Petersburg Times. 23 Feb 2001. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  19. ^ Spectre of Kursk haunts Putin – BBC News, 12 August 2001 Retrieved on 8 August 2007
  20. ^ Smit website on salvage project of Kursk, visited 12 Februari, 2012
  21. ^ Spitz, D.J. (2006): Investigation of Bodies in Water. In: Spitz, W.U. & Spitz, D.J. (eds): Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death. Guideline for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigations (Fourth edition), Charles C. Thomas, pp.: 846-881; Springfield, Illinois.
  22. ^ Defuelled Kursk will join submarine graveyard – Igor Kukrik, Bellona Foundation, Oslo, 3 March 2003.Retrieved on 8 August 2007.
  23. ^ Tony DiGiulian (2008-11-19). "Russia / USSR Post-World War II Torpedoes". Navweaps.com. Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
  24. ^ "Final report blames fuel for Kursk disaster". BBC News. 1 July 2002. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Милашина, Елена (15 July 2010). "Как погиб Курск" (in Russian). Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Wines, Michael (27 February 2001). "Russian Sub's Officer Wrote Of Torpedo Blast, Izvestia Says". New York Times. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Faulconbridge, Guy (3 December 2004). "Nightmare at Sea". Moscow Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Peter Davidson, Huw Jones, John H. Large (October 2003). "The Recovery of the Russian Federation Nuclear Powered Submarine Kursk" (PDF). World Maritime Technology Conference, San Francisco (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers). Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  29. ^ Seismic Testimony from the Kursk
  30. ^ "What really happened to Russia's 'unsinkable' sub". The Guardian. 4 August 2001. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  31. ^ Ryazantsev, Valery. "The death of the "Kursk"" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  32. ^ Ryazantsev, Valery. "The death of the "Kursk"" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 20 November 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  33. ^ http://vimeo.com/36073473

External links[edit]