Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rescue of AS-28 Underway

Welcome Instapundit and Blackfive readers, along with all other visitors! Please scroll down for more updates; our team of fourteen submariners and submarine enthusiasts who make up Ultraquiet No More will be doing our best to keep you up-to-date with what we're all praying will be a successful rescue of our Russian "brothers". Feel free to look around and learn more about what makes submariners such a unique breed.

Cross-posted by Bubblehead in Idaho from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

The British Scorpio has been working on cutting the AS-28 mini-submarine (yes, it's really a bathyschape, but I'm giving into the media juggernaut).

"Images sent by the British vessel suggested the submarine was tangled in fishing net. It was not clear if it was also tangled, as the Russians had reported, in cables connected to an undersea military antenna.
"Earlier, a Russian naval rescue vessel had prepared to lift the stranded vessel toward the surface before time ran out and the weather turned bad, Russian naval officials said Saturday.
Russian officials said the submarine's crew of seven men were alive and had donned thermal suits, had huddled together in a single compartment and were minimizing their movements to conserve their remaining air. Power had been all but shut down inside the sunken vessel and its heater turned off to save its dwindling energy reserves, rendering the titanium-hulled craft a chilled, dark tube more than 600 feet beneath the surface.
"The British craft sends video feeds to its operators on the surface and has implements that can cut thick steel cables. The hope was that the vessel would be able to trim the material entangling the submarine - first described as a fishing net, later as the antenna of an underwater monitoring station - and allow it to return to the surface."

The next paragraph assumes that they didn't roll very much after they blew their reserve air into their ballast tanks; submarines have open vents on the bottom of the ballast tanks, and if the boat rolls too much with the tanks full of air, the air can leak out...

"Even if the Russian submarine had been damaged, it would still float quickly to the surface as soon as it was freed, according to Capt. Christopher Murray, the deputy director of the United States Navy's Deep Submergence Systems."

Since there always has to be an old curmudgeon who's not happy with what's going on, Moscow News dug up an old retired Russian Admiral who doesn't think the West should be helping:

"Admiral Eduard Baltin, former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet said on Saturday that it was a mistake to ask NATO countries for help in rescuing the crew of the Russian mini-submarine stranded on the Pacific floor since Thursday because “this region is stuffed with [Russian military] secrets”, Interfax reports.
"The region hosts “the main base for the strategic nuclear submarines of the Pacific Fleet, which NATO itself has nicknamed a wasps’ nest. A secret cable runs through the area and a foreign submarine detection system is located here too,” Hero of the Soviet Union Adm. Eduard Baltin told Interfax.
"According to Baltin, Russian Navy should have been able to rescue the AS-28 mini-sub without difficulty, using manipulators at its disposal, and blowing up the cable, in which the mini-sub got caught. The admiral also expressed surprise that the Pacific Fleet command had said openly that the sub had got caught on an underwater antenna instead of “an underwater object.” “This antenna is one of the main components of an active system for the long-range detection of submarines,” he said."

I cruised around up in the North Pacific, and we did hear some obnoxious pinging in the water that we never considered a counterdetection threat... that must be the system he's talking about. Way to keep that big secret there, Admiral. I'm really surprised to find out that you are, or maybe used to be, a submariner (he once commanded K-159, the old November class boat that sank while be towed to the dismantling yard back in 2003. Admiral, it's a new world... get over it.

Update 2114 06 Aug: This AP story has some new information:

"Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press that the Super Scorpio had freed the mini-sub from the military antenna that had tangled it some 625 feet below the surface. But a mechanical problem with the Super Scorpio forced workers to bring the rescue vehicle to the surface, delaying a process complicated by the discovery of a fishing net caught on the mini-sub, Interfax quoted another naval spokesman as saying.
"After the last cable holding down the mini-sub was cut off, rescuers found a piece of fishing net on the nose of the submersible," Capt. Alexander Kosolapov was quoted as saying. "They were unable to take it off because the Scorpio had to be raised to the surface due to functioning problems."
[Intel Source: The Sub Report]

Also, a commenter reports: "Russian (and other) submarines have Kingston valves at the bottoms of their ballast tanks. These prevent air from leaking out at deranged angles." I've never heard this, but it sounds reasonable.


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