The story goes back to the mid- 1980s when the Soviet Union constructed a super submarine unlike any other existing. It was fast and capable. It was capable of going to astounding depths for a combat submersible. It was the now dead Russian submarine ‘Komsomolets’ that was introduced in the year 1984 as the most efficient sub.
The submarine gave a new direction to the Soviet Navy.
Five years later when the submarine ‘Komsomolets’ were on the bottom of the sea, two third of the crew was killed in a Navy incompetence.
The history behind Komsomolets:
1966, a team at the ‘Rubin Design Bureau’ under N. A. Klimov and a head designer Y. N. Kormilitsin was instructed to begin a deep research into a Project 685. The project was about a deep-diving submarine. The research effort continued for eight long years, finding out a suitable metal that could withstand the pressures of being deep in the sea. In 1974, however, the double-shelled design was completed, with a titanium alloy chosen for the inner shell.
In 1974, however, the large design was completed, with a titanium alloy selected for the grand inner shell.
Project 685 took the shape of K-278, which was to be a prototype boat constructed to test future deep-diving Soviet submarines. The ‘Sevmash’ shipyard began construction on April 22, 1978, and the entire ship was officially completed on May 30, 1983. It was a challenging project as machining titanium isn’t an easy task.
K- 278 was 360 ft long and 40 ft wide, with an inner hull approximately 24 ft wide. It had a submerged displacement of over 6,500 tons. The use of titanium instead of steel made it notably lighter. It had a unique double hull; the inner hull was made of titanium. The inner shell gave the submarine deep diving capabilities.
The submarine was powered by one 190 megawatts OK-650B-3 nuclear-pressurized water reactor that drove two forty-five-thousand-shipboard-horsepower steam-turbine engines.
How did the sub die?
It was April 7, 1989, while the ship was operating at a depth of 1266 feet and it ran into trouble in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. According to Norman Polmar and Kenneth Moore, it was the submarine’s second crew, that was the newly trained lot in operating the ship. Furthermore, because of it being a test ship, it lacked a damage-control party.
A fire broke out in the 7th draft chamber, and the flames burned out an air supply valve, which pressurised air into the fire. All fire suppression measures failed, and the reactor was scrammed. Even the ballast tanks were blown to surface the submarine. The fire continued to spread like water, and the crew fought the fire for six long hours until the order to abandon ship was given. According to Polmar and Moore, the fire was so severe that crewmen on deck watched as the rubber anechoic coating tiles that were coating the outer hull slid off due to the extreme heat and pressure.
The ship’s commanding officer along with four others went back to the ship to find crew members who were clueless about the order being given. The abrupt pressure change and all that heat caused the top hatch to blow off. It took two crew members out of the chamber. The chamber, as well as the captain and the rest of the rescue party, sank under the waves.
It was just four men at the beginning that were killed, but it gradually went over to 42. This included the soldiers and crewmen who were floating in the sea and rescued by the rescue boats. But they succumbed to their injuries. Out of 69 men on board, 42 died.
Komsomolets: the prototype Soviet nuclear submarine is still resting at the bottom of the sea. Although, the site has been extensively monitored for the signs of radiation leaking from both its nuclear warheads and its reactor. While it is far from the only nuclear submarine on the ocean floor, it is located within a major commercial fishery.
The site is believed to be secure until at least 2024 or 2025.
Source: The National Interest