US News MAINTENANCE. Twenty years ago the Kursk sank
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One hundred and eight sailors lost their lives in the explosion of the most modern Russian submarine on August 12, 2000. Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix, specialist in the Russian navy, looks back on this tragic episode.
Three questions to Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix, co-author of Combat fleets and specialist in the Russian navy.
What happened on board the nuclear submarine Kursk, August 12, 2000?
Official investigation determined that a 65-76A exercise torpedo, powered by hydrogen peroxide, exploded due to a hydrogen peroxide leak.waterway, would have been followed by that of the combat torpedoes. This second, more violent explosion wiped out compartments 1, 2, 3 of the submarine and damaged the following compartments 4, 5 and 5 bis, immediately killing all the sailors there.
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There are certainly divergent hypotheses, such as the one which attributes the second explosion to the impact of the Kursk with the bottom at -112 m; another evokes a collision with an American submarine. A French documentary which advances an American torpedoing seems, for its part, a pure fiction ...
Why have we not succeeded in saving lives?
Most of the sailors were killed in the two explosions. Only the rear compartments were spared. Twenty-three sailors were able to take refuge in compartment 9. They survived there between 24 and 36 hours, manifested by blows on the hull, while all attempts to tie Russian life-saving appliances to the aft airlock of the Kursk failed. The poor condition of the equipment and the lack of training seem to explain it.
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NATO offered to help, but Russia refused at first. A lawyer for the victims believes that if the authorities had immediately accepted foreign aid, the sailors could have been saved. However, given the time required for such an intervention, this seems doubtful.
Could a similar tragedy happen again today?
Anytime! A submarine is a blind device that concentrates risks associated with explosives, propulsion machinery and diving. Since the Kursk, there have been more than thirty accidents aboard submarines, four of which, quite serious, concern Russia.
What has changed is responsiveness and international solidarity. Following the loss of the Kursk, an International Liaison Office for the Evacuation and Rescue of Submarines was created by NATO in 2003. For its part, Russia built four rescue vessels and trains with China, which has the English LR-5 life-saving craft.
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