Russia: Sinking of the Kursk


From France, Martin Storey writes: An interesting and well argued documentary was shown in France, presenting an alternative theory of what may have happened to the Kursk submarine, sunk in 2000. I have no opinion on this, but report the gist of the documentary below.  I would be interested in WAIS comments.

The background: shortly after Vladimir Putin was crowned President of Russia, he initiated big manoeuvres in the Barents Sea, with the dual purpose to restore the Russian Federation's military prestige, and to impress the high level Chinese military brass invited discretely to attend this show of force. The highlights of these manoeuvres was going to be the launch by the Kursk of an ultramodern torpedo, the "Schval", said to be able to travel underwater at speeds of up to 500 km/h - more than 8 times faster than the western torpedoes.  This torpedo, also fitted with a depleted uranium head, helped the Kursk to earn its nickname of "aircraft carrier killer".  The US of A, understandably worried by the prospect of the Chinese purchasing such a weapon, kept a close watch on the manoeuvres, with two US submarines, another British one, and two spy ships (one from NATO and one from Norway).

On the morning of 12-Aug-2000, the Kursk radioed that it was rising to a depth of 18 m, and initiating the launch of the "Schkval".  The subsequent radio silence was broken only by the sound of 2 explosions. A British expert commentator immediately speculated that the submarine was carrying an old technology hydrogene peroxyde torpedo, which exploded and caused the disaster.  This was a credible explanation, even though the 1955 accident of the British submarine Sidon caused most navies of the world to abandon this type of torpedo. The Russian military immediately denied this explanation, but it has since become the official version (see http://www.cdi.org/russia/211-11.cfm). Numerous officers close to the story were fired or moved to remote locations. The documentary's theory is that one of the two US submarines, the Toledo, came so close to the Kursk, to express the US's disapproval, that it actually hit it hard.  In the ensuing panic, the other US submarine, the Memphis, would have launched an MK48 torpedo to cover the Toledo's flight.  This is the torpedo that would have sunk the Kursk.

The documentary asks what looks like pertinent questions if they are well-founded:
. Why did it take 30 hours to find the Kursk, when it could be seen from the surface?  (the water was 108m deep, the ship was 160m long)
. Why were the sailors of the Kursk, who may well have known the truth, not rescued when all indications are that a successful rescue was possible?
. Why did the Russian government declare a nuclear emergency, prompting its air force to take the air, if it had no reason to suspect a possible foreign aggression?
. Why did the CIA director, G. Tenet, go personally and secretly to Moscow 3 days later?
. Why did Putin and Clinton hold numerous telephone conversations during the week following the accident.  .Why was a large Russian debt cancelled, a new loan granted, and Clinton decided to stop the anti-missile shield project?
Victims' families have been generously compensated in return for their silence, and when Russian publications dare ask any question, they get visited by the FSB.

RH:A few days ago I saw a US documentary on the Kursk incident. It was obviously very different from the French documentary, indeed interestingly so.  It said the US and British ships went to help the Russians, who reacted slowly because of their suspicions. It was a British deep-sea vessel which located the Kursk and reached it. One question was; Why was Putin so slow in coming back from his Yalta vacation?  These different versions of the Kursk incident shows that our "Learning History" project must include TV documentaries.


Ronald Hilton 2005

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last updated: June 11, 2005