Russian nuclear submarine towed to port

A Russian Victor-III class nuclear submarine was towed to port after an apparently minor incident in the Barents Sea on April 14th 2001.

“We registered that a Victor-III class submarine was towed to port…there was nothing to indicate that it was a serious accident,” said commander Per Hoiby, a spokesman for the Norwegian armed forces. He told Reuters that the submarine had been trailing “smoke or exhaust…It could, for instance, have been a problem with a diesel generator.” Nuclear submarines may use diesel generators when nuclear installation is out of order.

The Russian Northern Fleet vice-chief Igor Dygalo said that it was “sudden naval exercises” to train towing the submarine in emergency situation. He told that Russian navy vessels and helicopters also took part in the exercises, although it was completely unexpected for them. On April 15th, immediately after “sudden exercises” the submarine went back to the training field of the Northern Fleet in Barents Sea, Dygalo said. However, the Northern Fleet press-centre said the exercises were finished on April 14th, and all the submarines returned to their bases. Victor-III submarines have their homebase at Bolshaya Lopatka Bay in Zapadnaya Litsa, the western part of the Kola Peninsula.

“I do not remember if the submarine went into the dock. It is quite possible that it did not as the crew was scheduled to fulfil many other tasks. However, I want to stress that malfunction submarine would never be allowed to leave the base,” Igor Dygalo told Joint navy exercises of the Northern and Baltic Fleets took place from the 9th till the 14th of April. 15 ships, 4 submarines, aircraft and helicopters of both fleets took part in the exercises. The emergency towing operation of the submarine was invented by the Russian navy headquarters before the exercises. Dygalo added that he was glad the exercises had been taken for real as it means the highly realistic conditions of the exercises.

Similar situation off the coast of the Kola Peninsula was in May 1998, when according to the navy officials, the Northern Fleet units were engaged in a military exercise training for an emergency situation on a nuclear submarine. The officials assured the reporters that nothing but an exercise was underway.

“What we have documented was a Delta-class submarine which surfaced and then went into one of the bays,” Knut Roar Bakken, lieutenant-colonel in the Norwegian Military General Headquarters, told the Norwegian daily VG in the afternoon of May 8th 1998. The available information suggested that the incident occurred near Rybachiy Peninsula on May 5th 1998. The cause of the incident was presumably a malfunction in the submarine’s missile shaft. The submarine then went to one of the bases on the Kola Peninsula, presumably Vidyaevo or Gadzhievo. Northern Fleet officials had to admit the accident later.

Victor class attack submarines are designed to target enemy submarines. The Victor-III class submarines have two pressurised water reactors, and capable of carrying SS-N-21, SS-N-15 or SS-N-16 nuclear tipped missiles. The nuclear warheads were removed from such submarines in the early 90’s. The crew consists of 70 servicemen.