Low Quality Parts from Corrupt Contractors Endanger Russian Sailors in Deep-Diving Subs

(p. A22) OFF THE COAST OF NORWAY — There could hardly have been a more terrifying place to fight a fire than in the belly of the Losharik, a mysterious deep-diving Russian submarine.

. . .

A fire on any submarine may be a mariner’s worst nightmare, but a fire on the Losharik was a threat of another order altogether. The vessel is able to dive far deeper than almost any other sub, but the feats of engineering that allow it do so may have helped seal the fate of the 14 sailors killed in the disaster.

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(p. A23) As for the accident itself, few expressed surprise that a jewel of the Russian submarine fleet might catch fire not very far from its home base — probably in water no more than 1,000 feet deep — leaving most of its crew dead. The Russians, some experts said, seem to have a greater tolerance for risk than the West.

. . .

Mr. Lobner, the former American submarine officer, said “we have nothing except unmanned vehicles” operating at such depths.

Still, while some see an engineering marvel, others see evidence that Russia may be unable to build the kind of sophisticated, autonomous underwater drones the United States appears to rely on.

“They would rather adapt existing systems, modernize them, and try to muddle through,” Mr. Boulègue said. “So, no wonder these things keep exploding,” he said. Mr. Boulègue believes accidents have been far more common than publicly known.

John Pike, director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org, said the Losharik fire suggested that the Russian military was still contending with some longstanding issues: corrupt contractors, and problems with quality control in manufacturing, spare parts supply chains and maintenance.

“I assume that every other sub in the Russian fleet has similar problems,” Mr. Pike said. “I just think the whole thing is held together with a lot of baling wire and spit.”

For the full story, see:

James Glanz and Thomas Nilsen. “A Deep-Diving Sub, a Deadly Fire And Russia’s Secret Undersea Agenda.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 21, 2020): A22-A23.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 21, 2020, and has the title “A Deep-Diving Sub. A Deadly Fire. And Russia’s Secret Undersea Agenda.”)

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