Thursday, September 5, 2013

Death of a Kilo--Part Two of Two

The Kilo-class Russian submarines have been very successful for the Soviets and now the Russians. The Russian navy  has some seventeen Kilos in service, with more in reserve. More than thirty have been exported to countries like China, India, and Poland. Here is a cutaway view of a typical Kilo.

Note the two battery compartments low in the boat, one forward and one aft of the periscopes. As a diesel-electric boat, the Kilo has to charge its batteries by running its diesel engines to provide propulsion. According to one newspaper report, that was just what the INS Sindhurakshak was doing after midnight in the early hours of August 14th, 2013, when something went wrong.

There was a fire on board, and some of the boat's ordnance blew up. It is not clear at this point whether the fire preceded or followed the explosions. It may be that the causation of both fire and explosions was hydrogen gas given off by a battery, which did cause an earlier fire in 2010 in the same boat. In any event, the Indian navy is left with a tragedy to deal with. Eighteen officers and men were killed, and can only be identified by DNA analysis. And the Sindhurakshak remains on the bottom, alongside in Mumbai Harbour, most of her munitions still on board and perhaps just waiting to explode. Not a happy place to be engaged in a salvage operation.

One newspaper account has the Russian navy, who carried out the very extensive refit 2010-2012, stating that a possible cause of the explosions and fire is human error. No doubt the Indian navy will be reviewing the refit and whether there was a design or installation fault involved.

A board of inquiry has yet to report.

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