Soviet submarine K-19
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2010)|
|Laid down:||17 October 1958|
|Launched:||8 April 1959|
|Completed:||12 November 1960|
|Commissioned:||30 April 1961|
|Decommissioned:||19 April 1990|
|Fate:||Recycled at Naval Yard 85 Nerpa.|
|Class & type:||Hotel-class submarine|
|Displacement:||4,030 long tons (4,095 t) (surfaced)
5,000 long tons (5,080 t) (submerged)
|Length:||114 m (374 ft 0 in)|
|Beam:||9.2 m (30 ft 2 in)|
|Draft:||7.1 m (23 ft 4 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 × 70 MW VM-A reactors, 2 geared turbines, 2 shafts, 39,200 shp (29 MW)|
|Speed:||15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (surfaced)
26 kn (48 km/h; 30 mph) (submerged)
|Range:||35,700 mi (57,500 km) at 26 kn (30 mph; 48 km/h)
32,200 mi (51,800 km) at 24 kn (28 mph; 44 km/h) (80% power)
|Endurance:||60 days (limited by food, and physical health)|
|Test depth:||250 m (820 ft) (test)
300 m (980 ft) (design)
|Complement:||125 officers and men|
|Armament:||3 × R-13 nuclear SRBM (650 km range) as a Hotel I
3 × R-21 nuclear MRBM (1300 km range) as a Hotel II
4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward
2 × 16 in (406 mm) tubes forward
2 × 16 in (406 mm) tubes aft
K-19 was one of the first two Soviet submarines of the 658 class (NATO reporting name Hotel-class submarine), the first generation nuclear submarine equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles, specifically the R-13 SLBM.
The boat was hurriedly built by the Soviets who were anxious to catch up with the United States' lead in nuclear submarines. Before it was launched, 10 civilian workers and a sailor died due to accidents and fires. After it was commissioned, it was plagued with breakdowns and accidents, several of which threatened to sink the sub.
On its initial voyage on 4 July 1961, it suffered a complete loss of coolant to its reactor. With no backup system, the captain ordered members of the engineering crew to find a solution to avoid a nuclear meltdown. Sacrificing their own lives, 22 crew members jury-rigged a secondary coolant system and kept the reactor from exploding.
Over its service life, it transited 332,396 miles (534,940 km) during 20,223 operational hours.
- 1 Background
- 2 Nuclear accident
- 3 Later operational history
- 4 Decommissioning
- 5 Popular culture
- 6 References
- 7 External links
In the late 1950s, the leaders of the Soviet Union were determined to catch up with the United States and began to build a nuclear sub fleet, pushing subs through production and testing so rapidly that many Russian naval officers felt that the ships are not fit for combat.
The crew aboard the first nuclear submarines of the Soviet fleet were treated with very high quality food relative to other sailors including smoked fish, sausages, fine chocolates and cheeses.
The K19 was ordered by the Soviet Navy on 16 October 1957. Her keel was laid on 17 October 1958 at the naval yard in Severodvinsk. Several workers died building the submarine: two workers were killed when a fire broke out, and later six women applying gluing rubber lining to a water cistern were killed by fumes. While missiles were being loaded, an electrician was crushed to death by a missile-tube cover, and an engineer fell between two compartments and died.
Gains unlucky reputation
The ship was launched and christened on April 8, 1959. Breaking with tradition, a man—Captain 3rd Rank V. V. Panov of the 5th Urgent Unit—instead of a woman, was chosen to smash the ceremonial champagne bottle across the ship's stern. The bottle failed to break, instead sliding along the screws and bouncing off the rubber-coated hull. This is traditionally viewed among sea crews as a sign that the ship is unlucky.
In January 1960, confusion among the crew during a watch change led to improper operation of the reactor and a reactor-control rod was bent. The damage required the reactor to be dismantled for repairs. The officers on duty were removed and Captain Panov was demoted.
The submarine's ensign was hoisted for the first time on 12 July 1960. It underwent sea trials from 13 through 17 July 1960 and again from 12 August through 8 November 1960, transiting 17,347 kilometres (10,779 mi). The ship was considered completed on November 12, 1960. After surfacing from a full-power run, the crew discovered that most of the hull's rubber coating had detached, and the entire surface of the boat had to be re-coated.
During a test dive to the maximum depth of 300 m (980 ft), flooding was reported in the reactor compartment, and Captain Zateyev ordered the sub to immediately surface, where it keeled over on its port side due to the water it had taken on. It was later determined that during construction the workers had failed to replace a gasket.
In October, 1960, the galley crew disposed of wood from equipment crates through the galley's waste system, clogging it. This led to flooding of the ninth compartment which filled one third full of water.
In December 1960, a loss of coolant caused failure of the main circuit pump. Specialists called from Severodvinsk managed to repair it at sea within a week.
On 30 April 1961, the boat was commissioned. The sub had a total of 139 men aboard, including missile men, reactor officers, torpedo men, doctors, cooks, stewards, and several observing officers who were not part of the standard crew.
On 4 July 1961, under the command of Captain First Rank Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev, K-19 was conducting exercises in the North Atlantic close to Southern Greenland when it developed a major leak in its reactor coolant system, causing the water pressure in the aft reactor to drop to zero and causing failure of the coolant pumps. A separate accident had disabled the long-range radio system, so they could not contact Moscow. Despite the control rods being inserted via SCRAM mechanism, the reactor temperature rose uncontrollably because of continuing chain reactions causing disintegration heat, reaching 800 °C (1,470 °F). The reactor continued to heat up as coolant is still required during shutdown until the reactions decrease. Despite Zateyev's and others' earlier requests, no backup cooling system had been installed.
Making a drastic decision, Zateyev ordered the engineering section to fabricate a new coolant system by cutting off an air vent valve and welding a water-supplying pipe into it. This required the men to work in high radiation for extended periods. The accident released radioactive steam containing fission products which were drawn into the ship's ventilation system and spread to other compartments of the ship. The jury-rigged cooling water system successfully reduced the temperature in the reactor.
The incident irradiated the entire crew, most of the ship, and some of the ballistic missiles on board. All seven members of the engineering crew and their divisional officer died of radiation exposure within the next month. Fifteen more sailors died from the after-effects of radiation exposure within the next two years.
Instead of continuing on the mission's planned route, the captain decided to head south to meet diesel submarines expected to be there. Worries about a potential crew mutiny prompted Zateyev to have all small arms thrown overboard except for five pistols distributed to his most trusted officers. A diesel submarine, S-270, picked up K-19's low-power distress transmissions and joined up with it.
American warships nearby had also heard the transmission and offered to help, but Zateyev, afraid of giving away Soviet military secrets to the West, refused and sailed to meet the S-270. Its crew was evacuated, and the boat was towed to the home base; after landing, the vessel contaminated a zone within 700 m (2,300 ft). The damaged reactors were removed and replaced, a process which took two years. During this time, there was further radioactive contamination of the environment and the workers involved. The original compartment was dumped into the Kara Sea.
According to the official explanation of the disaster, during the repair process it was discovered that the catastrophe had been caused by a drop from a welding electrode which had fallen into the first cooling circuit of the aft reactor during the initial construction. However, this is disputed. According to retired Rear-Admiral Nikolai Mormul, when the reactor was first started ashore, no pressure gauge had been connected to the first cooling circuit. By the time somebody realized what was happening, the pipes had been subjected to a pressure of 400 atmospheres, double the acceptable limit. Checking the pipes would have been costly and reporting the negligence would have hurt the career of Captain Zateyev. K-19 returned to the fleet, now having acquired the additional nickname "Hiroshima".
On 1 February 2006, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev proposed in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee that the crew of K-19 be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their actions on 4 July 1961. In late March 2006, Nikolai Zateyev was formally nominated for the award.
Deceased crew members
Several crew members received fatal doses of radiation during repairs on the reserve coolant system of Reactor #8. All of them died between one and three weeks after the accident from severe radiation sickness. Note that a dose of 4 to 5 Sv (Sievert) has a 50% chance of being lethal. [A 1]
|Name||Rank||Dose of radiation||Date of death|
|Korchilov, BorisBoris Korchilov||Lieutenant||54 Sv (Sievert)[A 2] = 5400 rem [A 3]||10 July 1961|
|Ryzhikov, BorisBoris Ryzhikov||Chief Starshina||8.6 Sv = 720 röntgen||25 July 1961|
|Ordochkin, YuriyYuriy Ordochkin||Starshina, 1st class||11 Sv = 990 röntgen||10 July 1961|
|Kashenkov, EvgenyEvgeny Kashenkov||Starshina, 2nd class||10 Sv = 845 röntgen||10 July 1961|
|Penkov, SemyonSemyon Penkov||Seaman||10 Sv = 890 röntgen||18 July 1961|
|Savkin, NicolaiNicolai Savkin||Seaman||11 Sv = 930 röntgen||13 July 1961|
|Charitonov, ValeryValery Charitonov||Seaman||11 Sv = 935 röntgen||15 July 1961|
|Povstyev, YuriyYuriy Povstyev||Captain Lieutenant,
Commander of the division of movement
|7.5 Sv = 629 röntgen||22 July 1961|
- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission "Lethal Dose" definition
- Convert from Roentgen (R) to rad or from Roentgen (R) to rem?
- СУБМАРИНА, СБЕРЕГШАЯ МИР TPYд. 21 November 2002. (Russian)
Many other crew members also received doses of radiation exceeding permissible levels. They underwent medical treatment during the following year. The treatment was devised by Professor Z. Volynskiy and included bone marrow transplantation and blood transfusion. It saved, among others, Chief Lieutenant Mikhail Krasichkov and Captain 3rd class Vladimir Yenin, who had received doses of radiation that were otherwise considered deadly. For reasons of secrecy the official diagnosis was not "radiation sickness" but "astheno-vegetative syndrome". This deliberate misdiagnosis meant that the surviving crew members had problems in obtaining future employment.
Crew members decorated
On 6 August 1961, 26 members of the crew are decorated for courage and valor shown during the accident.
Link to Cuban Missile Crisis
During the nuclear accident, Soviet naval officer Vasiliy Arkhipov was the executive officer aboard the K19. On October 27, 1962, Arkhipov was executive officer aboard the diesel-powered, nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The submarine was patrolling the blockade line when the US Navy dropped a series of "signaling depth charges" (practice depth charges the size of hand grenades). Unknown to the United States, the sub was armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes and was given standing orders that gave the sub's officers the authority to fire the device if the submarine hull was "hulled" (a hole in the hull from depth charges or surface fire). The sub had not been in contact with Soviet headquarters and did not know if war had broken out. The decision to launch a nuclear torpedo required agreement from all three officers, but Arkhipov objected, averting the launch and possibly nuclear war. Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at the time, said in 2002 that "a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."
Later operational history
At 07:13 on 15 November 1969, K-19 collided with the attack submarine USS Gato in the Barents Sea at a depth of 60 m (200 ft). It was able to surface by means of an emergency main ballast tank blow. The impact completely destroyed the bow sonar systems and mangled the covers of the forward torpedo tubes. K-19 was again repaired and returned to the fleet. From 15 June through 5 November 1972, the ship was repaired and put back into service.
On 15 November 1972, another fire broke out in compartment 6, but it was put out by the chemical fire-extinguisher system and there were no casualties.
On 24 February 1972, a fire broke out while the submarine was at a depth of 120 m (390 ft), some 1,300 km (700 nmi; 810 mi) from Newfoundland, in Canada. The boat surfaced and the crew was evacuated to surface warships except for 12 men trapped in the aft torpedo room. Towing was delayed by a gale, and rescuers could not reach the aft torpedo room because of conditions in the engine room.
The fire killed 28 sailors aboard the K-19 and two others who died after they were transferred to rescue ships. The fire was determined to have been caused by hydraulic fluid leaking onto a hot filter.
The boat was finally towed to Severomorsk on 4 April, and the men were rescued after surviving 24 days in the lightless, heatless torpedo room. The rescue operation lasted more than 40 days and involved over 30 ships. K-19 was again repaired and returned to the fleet.
On 25 July 1977, the K19 was reclassified as a Large Submarine, and on 26 July 1979, she was reclassified as a communications submarine and given the symbol KS-19 (КС-19). On 15 August 1982, an electrical short circuit resulted in severe burns to two sailors, and sailor V. A. Kravchuk died five days later.
In March 2002, a U.S. film studio tried to secure the boat as a set for its production, but the Russian Navy declined.
On 28 November 1985, the ship was upgraded to the 658s (658с) variant. Five years later on 19 April 1990 was decommissioned.
The submarine was decommissioned in 1990 and was transferred in 1994 to the naval repair yard at Polyarny. In March 2002, it was towed to the Nerpa Shipyard, Snezhnogorsk, Murmansk, to be scrapped. It was announced in October 2003 that scrapping would start soon.
In 2006, the K-19 was purchased by Vladimir Romanov, who once served on the sub as a conscript, with the intention of "Turning it into a Moscow-based meeting place to build links between submarine veterans from Russia and other countries." So far, the plans remain on hold, and many of K-19's survivors have objected to them.
The movie K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, is based on the story of the K-19's first disaster. "The Widowmaker" nickname was used only in the movie. In real life, the submarine had no nickname until the nuclear accident on 4 July 1961, when she got her actual nickname "Hiroshima".
- "1958-60: The Construction of K-19". National Geographic. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- Bivens, Matt. "Horror of Soviet Nuclear Sub 61' Tragedy Retold". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
- Historical overview (Russian)
- "Ships, Champagne, and Superstition". Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- "Epilogue: Tragedy Upon Tragedy". K-19: The History. National Geographic. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
- Polmar, Norman (2003). Cold War Submarines. The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines. Potomac Books, Inc. p. 112. ISBN 1-57488-530-8.
- "Lenta.ru: Оружие: К-19 – достойная награда спустя 45 лет (Weapon: K-19 – distinguished award after 45 years)". Old.lenta.ru. 2003-09-13. Retrieved 2011-05-14. (Russian)
- "The Submarines of October". George Washington University, National Security Archive. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- "The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: Press Release, 11 October 2002, 5:00 pm". George Washington University, National Security Archive. October 11, 2002. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- Lloyd, Marion (13 October 2002). "Soviets Close to Using A-Bomb in 1962 Crisis, Forum is Told". Boston Globe. pp. A20. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- «Own truth» (September 2003) (Russian)
- The Daily Record. Jambos chief Vlad splashes out on subarchive
- Stewart, Will: Romanov invites Soviet sub heroes to cup final; Scotsman newspaper article, Scotsman Publications; 12 May 2006
- K-19: the History (from National Geographic)
- K-19, prototype of Hollywood thriller, to be cut up (from Pravda)