The Kursk's Dark Mission

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Since 03-01-03


Date: 8/30/00, 6:31 AM  (modified 10/26/00, J.Santos)

This is an extremely interesting account of how the Russian submarine "Kursk" sank on August 14 and what is was doing when it sank.  Reminds us of what a dangerous world we still live in. Also reminds us that the Russians have very powerful and hostile military capabilities targeted against us. Finally, it tells us how far off the mark the popular press can be especially when it romanticizes deadly serious issues. 

Dick Coffman.

Subject: The Kursk's Dark Mission  click here for original story: The Kursk's Dark Mission
Link noted DEAD on 02/27/03

K-141 is down. The Kursk, an Antyey type 949A nuclear attack submarine, was lost in the Barents Sea. The Kursk, one of eight active Oscar II class submarines, was the pride of the Russian Navy and the leading edge of the new Northern Fleet.

Commissioned in 1995, the Kursk was the Northern Fleet's most powerful weapon. It made a high-profile voyage to the Mediterranean in September 1999 and was due to return later this year as part of a planned Russian nuclear task group deployment to the Middle East. The August Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea was designed to provide the west with good reason to remember the Kursk.

Reports now show the exercise was intended to showcase the Kursk as she performing her two primary roles, killing American carriers and submarines. The Russian Navy exercise also drew a small crowd of interested observers in the form of two U.S. Los Angeles attack submarines, loitering in the shallow polar sea over 50 miles from the Kursk.

That fateful morning the Kursk reportedly completed a successful firing of her main killer, the Chelomey Granit missile, NATO code named SS-N-19 Shipwreck. The Kursk and her sister boats carry 24 Shipwreck missiles. The missiles are stored on each side of the huge submarine in banks of 12, hidden between the layers of the boat's thick twin hull skin. The Shipwreck missiles are stored in launching tubes external to the inner pressure hull where the 118 crew members worked and lived.

The Shipwreck missile fired by the Kursk that Saturday morning contained a 1,600-pound conventional warhead. It reportedly scored a direct hit against a Russian hulk target over 200 miles away. The Shipwreck is intended to strike U.S. carriers but can also be targeted against U.S. cities. Russian Naval sources indicate that the Shipwreck missile can be armed with an H-bomb warhead equal to one half million tons of TNT, more than enough to flatten Los Angeles or New York City.

That fateful August Saturday, in the dim afternoon light of the arctic summer sun, the Kursk began her last performance, the simulated destruction of a U.S. submarine using the 100-RU Veder missile. The Veder, NATO code named SS-N-16A Stallion, is a rocket-boosted torpedo. The Stallion is launched from the huge 26" diameter torpedo tubes installed on each Oscar II class submarine.

The Stallion is so secret that no picture of the weapon has ever been published. The Stallion is fired from the submarine's torpedo tube but flies like a missile. The Stallion rocket booster ignites underwater once the weapon is clear of the submarine, sending the missile to the surface. The missile then flies to the target under rocket power where it finally ejects a lightweight torpedo at supersonic speed.

The mini-torpedo then uses its own little parachute, slowing to drop gently into the water directly above the target. The mini-torpedo then homes in on the target submarine for the final kill. The conventional Stallion fired by the Kursk was armed with a mini-220 pound explosive warhead. Janes Defense reports that the missile can also be armed with a mini-nuclear warhead equal to 200,000 tons of TNT.

According to Janes Defense, the last moments of the Kursk were recorded as she prepared to fire the Stallion. Seismologists in Norway told Janes that a monitoring station registered two explosions at the time the Kursk sank. The first registered 1.5 on the Richter scale. A second, stronger explosion measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale equivalent to 1-2 tons of TNT was recorded just over 2 minutes later.

The Stallion rocket motor may have ignited inside the sealed torpedo tube just before firing. The Stallion may have jammed itself inside the torpedo tube as it was fired. In any event, the underwater rocket appears to have ignited inside the inner manned pressure hull.

The force of the Stallion rocket motor would have twisted the huge torpedo tube, melting through the metal walls within seconds. Just enough time for alarms to sound and men to die.  Then the small 220-pound warhead exploded, blowing a gaping hole in the twisted skin of the attack submarine. The submarine immediately fell forward as the icy water rushed to fill the forward weapon bay.

The last moments of the Kursk and most of her crew were filled with fire and ice as the vessel plunged into the cold arctic depths. The rush of cold water did not extinguish the fire since the Stallion rocket booster was designed to burn without air. The exploding warhead would have sent huge flaming chunks of the rocket booster into the forward weapon control room.

The force of the 14,000-ton submarine striking the bottom on the damaged torpedo bay was the final blow, detonating one of the many weapons inside upon impact. The force of the explosion inside the twin hull submarine ripped the starboard side open back to the sail. The manned areas forward of the reactor compartment, including the control room and living quarters, rapidly flooded, leaving no time for personnel in those compartments to escape. NOTE:  see bottom of this page for update.

This may not be the end of the story. There are now suggestions that the west should help Russia raise the Kursk. Yet, despite being broke, Russia continues to build and deploy the Oscar II submarine force. There are seven active Oscar II class boats.  

The latest, K-530 the Belgorod, is still under construction at the Severodvinsk Shipyard. Budget cutbacks have slowed progress on the boat to a standstill but construction continues. There are rumors that China is interested in buying K-530.

The Kursk sailed the Mediterranean in late 1999 as a show of flag to Russian allies such as Syria, Libya and Serbia. At the same time the Kursk was touring the Mediterranean in 1999, a Pacific Fleet Oscar II submarine was quietly cruising the western seaboard of the United States, within missile range of California, Oregon and Washington.

While we all mourn the passing of K-141 and her crew, we should also reflect on exactly what her mission was.


Note found in Russian sub says 23 sailors initially survived Kursk blast, 10/26/00