The mystery of the death of “Kursk”

Sixteen years ago, the nuclear submarine K-141 “Kursk” had an accident in the Barents sea. Along with missile-carrying cruiser killing all 118 people on Board. But even today, after so many years, the tragedy has more questions than answers.


That’s called a nuclear submarine missile-carrying cruiser of the project 949A. These boats are also accepted proudly styled “killer of aircraft carriers”. Anyway, submarines of project 949A “Antey” are very powerful ships, on Board of which is the deadly weapons.

The boat is a double casing: its design includes an external light and the internal hull. The distance between them is 3.5 m, and this feature increases the chances of survival in a collision with another submarine. Housing submarine is divided into ten compartments. Submarines of project 949A very broad and may need to lie on the ground.

Submarines of project 949A “Antey” was built quite large (EPL) series, which includes eleven submarines. Now part of the Northern and Pacific fleets continue to serve eight more of these boats, and soon they will complement K-139 “Belgorod”. Partial replacement will be submarines of project 885 “Ash”.

“Kursk”: the campaign to nowhere

But back to the lost submarine. Details is it possible to restore the chronology of events is debatable. Many aspects are classified, and about them we will never know.

It is known that in his last campaign submarine went 10 August 2000. And two days later, on 12 August, the ship went out on bond. The scenario the crew had to work out the start-up cruise missiles P-700, and also to make shooting at targets with torpedoes near the Kola Bay. The boat was full lineup of cruise missiles, and any ammunition torpedoes (24 pieces). Meanwhile, combat training torpedo attack was not detected and a command post has not received the relevant report.

Held with the participation of the Kursk naval exercise were the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course, it involved the prestige of Russia as a great sea power. In part this explains the confusion in the words of the leadership of the Navy. Only two days after the tragedy, appeared the first official reports about the crash, until then, ordinary people could only guess about her. President Vladimir Putin was in Sochi. He made no statements and did not interrupt your vacation.

Need to put, fears have crept in August 12 when at 11:28 am local time, the atomic cruiser “Peter the Great” was recorded by cotton. Then the fate of the sailors and their commander captain first rank Gennady Lyachin – did not seem a foregone conclusion, and a strange sound attributed to the activation of the antenna of the radar station. After 2 minutes 15 seconds after the first explosion was followed by a second more powerful. But even despite this message on the “Kursk” were sent in just five and a half hours.

The crew of “Kursk” has not contacted or 17:30 or at 23:00 the same day. The situation found in an emergency, and in the morning 4:51 lying at the bottom, the submarine was discovered hydroacoustic complex “Peter the Great”. The ship was at the bottom of the Barents sea at a depth of 108 m, 150 km from Severomorsk. After the descent of the diving bell boat found visually, and the rescuers heard a faint knock “SOS. Water.” Began a long Saga of rescue boats, which revealed many of the problems of the domestic fleet.

Western countries responded quickly to the tragedy. His assistance offered to the United Kingdom and the United States. In the West, offered to use their submersibles to save the surviving sailors. But the Russian aid refused…

On 15 August it became clear that the nose of the boat is badly damaged and under the most favorable development of the situation air on Board will last until August 18. Then the British sent their deep-diving vehicle LR-5 in the Norwegian port to await the resolution of the Russian Federation, they did not. The next day, Russia still allowed the Europeans to help, and the rescue went Norwegian vessel Normand Pioneer and Seaway Eagle. The first of them transported the machine LR-5, and the second group of divers.

The official version says that lying at the bottom of the submarine had a roll of 60 degrees. Combined with poor visibility and rough seas this led to the fact that submersibles AC-15, AC-32, AC-36 and AC-34 neither the 13th nor the 14th or 15th of August or later and are unable to perform their task. However that said on this occasion, the commander of the rescue squad, the Briton David Russell (David Russel): “We realized that we report information to us is a lie. There was a good visibility and a calm sea. The position of the submarine “Kursk” was available and it was possible to help the survivors of seamen”. The misinformation was reported by the Norwegian Admiral Einar Skorgen (Einar Skorgen) involved in the operation: “the Divers sank very quickly – the submarine was there. Its fully horizontal position, a strong current is absent. The Russians told us that the ring of rescue gateway corrupted, but it turned out to be wrong”. So to the “Kursk” it was possible to dock, and subsequent events proved it.

Almost immediately upon arrival, the Norwegians were successful. At 13:00 on 20 August, after the docking of the rescue apparatus, they opened the 9th compartment of the submarine. Two hours later, the authorities officially stated that living on Board. That submarine is completely submerged, became known on August 19, after tapping of the divers of the case “Kursk”. In the fall of 2001, the boat lifted to the surface and with pontoons towed into dry dock. Before that the bow of the dead cruiser cut off and left on the seabed, although many experts have proposed to raise it completely.

Part raised from the seabed of the submarine “Kursk”

The official version

An official report in 2002 prepared by the then General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov. According to this version, “Kursk” were killed in the explosion 650-mm torpedo “kit” in the fourth torpedo tube. This is a pretty old torpedo, created in the 1970s, one of the components of its fuel is hydrogen peroxide – it leaked and caused an explosion. Then there was a detonation of other torpedoes at the bow of the boat. Torpedoes to hydrogen peroxide in many other fleets are not used more than half a century because of their insecurity.

The nature of the damage of the first compartment such that the version about explosion of the torpedo seems the most likely. Part of the torpedo tubes and sonar stations, other equipment was literally cut off from the hull of the submarine. The analysis of the deformation of the wreckage of the torpedo gives reason to think that it really exploded. Another question – why it happened. It is known that leakage of fuel for torpedoes, and its contact with the environment could lead to tragedy. As for the causes of the leak, the question is open. Some experts point to the marriage, others believe that the torpedo could be damaged when loading the boat.

On Board the “Kursk” had the means of salvation. Was a rescue capsule, which in theory could raise to the surface all 118 people. If the depth is small, the crew can leave the Board through the torpedo tubes, although in this case it is possible to decompression illness, even impending death. Finally, a refuge for sailors is located in the tail of the boat to the ninth compartment, it can dock underwater vehicles.

In the direction of the “torpedo” version goes down, and Vice-Admiral Valery Ryazantsev, set down his version in the book “In the Wake formation behind the death.” And although he also speaks about the explosion of the torpedoes on Board, his conclusions in many respects do not coincide with the official interpretation. The flawed design of the boat, according to Ryazantsev, force in the salvo launch torpedoes left open zaklepki system of General ventilation (so prevent a sharp jump of pressure in the first compartment). Due to this feature, the shock wave got to the second command module and brought down the entire staff. Then a rudderless boat crashed into the ground and there was a detonation of remaining ammunition.

After the first explosion, the first compartment was engulfed in flames. The shock wave was felt and the second compartment. The second explosion was much stronger and partition of the first/second compartments crashed into the wall of the second/third. Only aft bulkhead of the compartment 5 bis withstood the blow, although bent. If we follow the official version, the intergate-type doors were closed and sealed. At least 23 sailors survived the explosions and took refuge in the ninth compartment aft of the ship, with the saving gateway.

The collision of submarines

One version States that “Kursk” could be faced with an American submarine. This version sticks to and captain first rank Mikhail Volzhensky. The main culprit is called the submarine “Toledo”, belonging to the type of the nuclear submarine “Los Angeles”. Submarine US Navy really followed the teachings of the Russian Navy. They have a high stealth, which allows close approach to domestic vehicles.

This version has a number of contradictions. Any Western multi-purpose submarine is much less of the “Kursk”: the length of the boat type “Los Angeles” is 109 m against x 154-the “Kursk”. The most powerful American multipurpose submarines of the “Seawolf” has a length of 107 m. we Add that the submarines of project 949A incomparably broader and generally more massive than overseas. In other words, the collision with the “Kursk” was to cause the Americans themselves even greater harm. But none of the boats of the US Navy didn’t hurt.

Similar roughness has and the hypothesis of a collision with a surface ship. To put on the bottom of the “Kursk”, the impact had to be tremendous force, and still the probability of death for such a large boat would be negligible.

In the fifth compartment of the “Kursk” was a recorder, and rotational documentation, damaged by tragedy. At the time of accident equipment the tape recording of “Snowbird” turned off, although the regulation prescribes that in practice it was included. Thus, failed to restore the talks on speakerphone at the time of death. All were transcribed 22 of the cassette tape recordings. On Board were found three notes themselves submariners, but none of them gave the answer to the question about the causes of the tragedy. Anyway, it was announced officially.

Torpedo attack

A much more interesting version of the torpedoing of the “Kursk” submarine NATO. Of course, the Alliance was not aimed at its destruction, just in a difficult situation, when the ships were near, the captain of the American boat could give the order to launch torpedoes. This view is held by the creators of the documentary film “Kursk. A submarine in troubled waters”. According to her, the move made the boat “Memphis”, relating to type “Los Angeles”. There was also a boat, “Toledo”, to cover the attacking submarine.

Evidence of the attack can serve as a hole in the front right side of the “Kursk”. Some of the pictures clearly shows the circle with concave inside edges. But what could leave such damage? Submarines, the U.S. Navy used torpedoes Mark 48, but their detailed characteristics are not known. The fact that these torpedoes were repeatedly modernized since their adoption in 1972.

Some experts say that the Mark-48 strikes the boat the direction of the explosion and, accordingly, may not leave such damage on Board (we are talking about a smooth, almost round hole). But in the film Jean-Michel Carre (Jean-Michel Carré) argues that Mark-48 has a penetrating action and a hole – her business card. The film itself is replete with many technical flaws, and to separate truth from fiction in this case is very hard. In other words, the question of torpedo attack still remains open.


In General, the version of collision “Kursk” with mine was never on the agenda. Writers and journalists have not seen anything “mysterious”: this version really does not look like a conspiracy. The technical side of the question also raises doubts, after all “Kursk” was one of the world’s largest nuclear submarine, and the destruction of the old mine during the Second world war is hardly possible.

However, there is a far more plausible hypothesis. Mines, as you know, are different, and not all of them created during the Second world war. There is, for example, the U.S. naval mine Mark 60 Captor, which is a container anchor with torpedo Mk.46. Special equipment detects the noise of enemy submarines and torpedo shaped-charge warhead locks onto the front, the most vulnerable part of the boat. A number of experts believe that this may explain the presence of round holes in the front of the “Kursk”.

U.S. naval mine Mark 60 Captor

Alternative version

One version was the conjecture of captain first rank Alexander Leskov. In 1967, he survived a fire on a nuclear submarine K-3, and in addition he was commander of the nuclear submarine K-147. The officer criticized the official version according to which the “Kursk” during the first explosion was under water. With a length of 154 meters, a boat, according to Leskov, should not have been located with such a small depth of the sea (remember, she was found at a depth of 108 m). Safety requirements for immersion depth in three the length of the submarine.

A former submariner argues that the boat found on the bottom with a drawer that raise only when the surface position of the ship. The version about explosion of the torpedo he calls a mistake, because torpedoes have four levels of protection and the detonation of one does not entail the other explosions.

A reasonable question arises: what, then, killed the boat? Leskov clearly States that it was fired during the exercises the Russian rocket. It could be coastal rocket complexes of a class “earth – earth”. The officer believes that “Kursk” has got not one but two missiles, and that was the cause of both explosions. Note that the hypothesis Leskov, like all the others, also suffers from lack of evidence.

Instead of an epilogue

The truth about the tragedy at the nuclear submarine “Kursk” we probably will never know. This is the case when the official version and the conspiracy separated only by a thin line, and on whose side the truth is unknown.

Russia’s refusal of international aid and confusion in the words of senior officials can be attributed to self-defense. And however, neither the commander of the Northern fleet, Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, or other active participant in those events, Vice – Admiral Mikhail Motsak responsibility has not suffered. Foreigners to the boat really start is not wanted, as were afraid to break the notorious “secrecy”, inherited from the Soviet Union. And here involuntarily reminded of the words of Bulgakov’s Transfiguration Professor about the devastation in their heads.

But what about the details of the catastrophe? The version of collision with underwater or surface object seems implausible. At the time of the first explosion, the Norwegian seismic station ARCES recorded the impact force in the 90-200 kg in a trotyl equivalent. Thus, the first torpedo explosion could really happen. Two minutes later, seismologists have recorded another explosion, much stronger – this might detonate the remaining ammo of the boat. But what the torpedo destroyed the Kursk? The battle of “China” is 450 kg, the American Mark-48 – 295 Mark-46 – 44 kg. Theoretically, the explosion of each of them could be the first recorded strike.

No sense to torpedo “Kursk” for Americans was not, except in extreme situations of self-defense. And the chance of hitting the submarine with the ground rocket class “ground – ground” was nothing more than a probability that the “Kursk” hit the meteorite. As for the explosion of torpedoes on Board, it could only happen in the circumstances and in terms of total negligence at all levels. This is totally unacceptable for the submarine fleet, but for that time is incredible.