Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cold War Stories: Guardfish Vs. K-184, Part IV

Compartment six (Reactor), Project 675 Echo II class cruise missile submarine.
(Photo: The Pilot's Blog)

Part I
Part II
Part III

K-184 gets jerked around by shore, dogged by Neptunes and Orions, averts another disaster and finds a new friend.

20 May. We have taken station in area number one. We came to periscope depth at 0830 to catch the broadcast and fix our position. Immediately, dead ahead at a range of 10 cables, I saw an American auxiliary ship heading directly for us. We filled the emergency dive tank and dove to a safe depth. Sonar didn’t hear the ship. The bathymetry was bad – generally, we don’t hear anything. Therefore every surfacing or PD was potentially dangerous due to the possibility of collision with a surface vessel.

David Minton writes: “Eight days the sub has patrolled at low speed in an area in the shape of a rectangle located about 700 miles from out from our carriers cruising along the coast of Vietnam and far outside the 200 mile range of her missiles. For now, the tracking party has tried not to lose contact with the Soviet boat….

If military conflict starts now, then the Sea of Japan will become a trap for the Pacific Ocean Fleet, like the Gulf of Finland became one for ships and submarines in 1943. The straits: La Peruse, Sangarskiy and the Korean Straits can quickly become anti-submarine barriers and right now, our likely foe most probably controls the movement of our submarines. (TR Note: I think the "Sangarskiy" Straits are actually better known as the Tartar Straits between Sakhalin Island and the Asian mainland.)

22 May. We detected an ASW P-3 Orion’s AN/APS-80, weak signal strength. We diverted course away from the aircraft.

23 May. We came to periscope depth at 0830 to catch the broadcast and get a position fix. Political information: “The Fleet Komsomol activities were held”. Not one word more. Of course, it was “very important” information for a submarine in the South China Sea. We detected an ASW P-3 Orion’s AN/APS-80, weak signal strength. We diverted course away from the aircraft.

24 May. We received instructions along with K-45 and K-7 to report our positions. We sent our lat/long at 1200. We sent the message three times because atmospheric conditions in the area were bad. From the intel summary: “Nixon is holding talks in Moscow”. We detected a weak signal strength AN/APS-20 from a P-2 Neptune ASW aircraft and diverted course away from the aircraft. The last two AN/APS-20 intercepts were analyzed and we came to the conclusion that the aircraft was conducting an ASW search.

25 May. Sometime after lunch, the engineer, K2R M.S.Bayburin reported that there was a leak of KhGCEhN-601 from the port side reactor and I made the decision to cut it off since a build up of the levels of radioactive gasses and aerosols began in compartment 6 (TR Note: if there is anybody who knows what ХГЦЭН - 601 is, please leave it in the comments section. There is only ONE reference to it on the intertubes and I am dying to know what it is). We remembered the search operation we were on in the Sea of Okhotsk from 24 September to 05 October, 1971. The boat entered the search area on 26 September, took up the search area and began to look for the “blue” submarine. On 29 September at 1230 at a depth of 80 meters there was a release of radioactive gas in the forward equipment space in the 6th (reactor) compartment. The radioactive gas and aerosol levels quickly grew in the forward equipment space to 20 times the normal allowable limit on the second and third levels of the 6th compartment. The signal and announcement of “radioactive danger” was given immediately and a special emergency zone was declared in the 5th, 6th and 7th compartments. The engineer, K2R Bayburin and the chemical defense officer, K3R G.B.Yagoshin reported the boats condition and suggested a course of action. I decided to surface and ventilate the 6th compartment to the open air. Ten minutes later we surfaced and began the ventilation. Literally two minutes later, ESM detected an AN/APS-80 and an American P-3 Orion appeared out of the clouds and began to over fly us at an altitude of 100 meters. I decided to alter course, emergency dive and clear the datum by 20 miles. By this time the situation with regards to the gas and aerosol radioactivity was more complicated: it was 300 times allowed levels on the third deck in compartment 6. In the forward equipment space it was 5000 times allowable. On the second deck, 1700 times and in the 5th and 7th compartments it was around 40 times. To leave personnel in these compartments any longer was impossible, and since they were removed from the affected compartments, I sent a message to shore detailing the deteriorating situation. We began to ventilate compartments 5, 6 and 7 to the atmosphere. Sometime by 2400 on 29 September, the levels in the 5th and 7th compartments were down to normal and in the 6th compartment they were down to just 1-2 times the allowable levels. The levels had reached 5-10 times norms by this time in the other compartments. In the 5th, 6th and 7th compartments, the level of contamination reached 100 counts/minute and we began shutting down those compartments. By 1200 on 30 September, the situation on board had stabilized: the gas and aerosol levels throughout the boat fell to normal levels. We sent a message to shore on our condition and asked for permission to return to base submerged. We received permission an hour later. Part of the crew suffered head aches, chest pains and fatigue that didn’t go away for a month. When we got back to base, no one bothered to examine us.

26 May. We came to periscope depth at 0200. I immediately saw a 10,000 ton displacement ship dead ahead, range 10 cables. Sonar didn’t hear anything. We made an emergency deep to a safe depth. The next broadcast we got a message from shore ordering us to return to base.

David Minton writes: “…world events began to take on a more peaceful tone. After long negotiations, President Nixon went to Moscow, where he held an historic meeting with General Secretary Brezhnev. During this meeting with Brezhnev on 24 May, the National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger informed Brezhnev that the US knew about the deployment of Soviet submarines and that their presence so close to the combat zone in Vietnam was a provocation and very dangerous. Two days after this standoff, the Soviet Echo II submarine turned north.

27 May. That night we received a message canceling the order to return to base. Instead they gave us an order to take up a new position in the Philippines Sea which was in the shape of a circle with a radius of 30 miles. What we were to do in that circle, they didn’t say. K-57 and K-189 also received water space in the Philippines Sea. We passed through the Bashi Strait and fixed our position visually using an island. During the broadcast, we detected a radar operating in single sweep mode bearing 172 relative. In the periscope, the horizon was clear. We couldn’t determine the parameters of the radar. I started the tracking board with the goal of identifying our pursuer during every PD excursion. On it I noted the incoming messages, the weather, visual observations and our maneuvering. It was possible that the radar was a BPS-9 belonging to a Permit-class nuclear attack boat.

To be continued....


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