Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Caspian Sea Monster

I for one welcome our weird, supersonic missile-armed, aircraft-hydroplane hybrid overlords.

Submarine Disaster of the Day: The Chaotic Rescue of S-178

Memorial to Project 613B SS-178. Photo:

The Pacific Fleet Project 613B medium diesel submarine S-178 was lost on 21 October, 1981 as a result of a collision with the refrigerated cargo ship Refrigerator-13. The boat was returning after two days at sea with K3R V.A. Marago at the helm.

S-178 received permission to enter Zolotoy Rog harbor at 1930. RFS-13 didn't notice S-178's running lights against the backdrop of the city of Vladivostok and other ships in the roadstead until too late. The commander managed to give the order, "On the starboard side! Signalman, illuminate the oncoming vessel!", but it was already too late.

Refrigerator-13 struck S-178 on the port side around compartment number six at 1945. The compartment was flooded in about 15 to 20 seconds. The boat developed a severe list and people standing in the sail flew into the water. About 40 seconds after the collision, S-178, having taken on about 130 tons of water, lost seaworthiness and sank in 31 meters of water.

The memorial to the crew of S-178 was established in the Mariner's cemetery by submariners. It was opened in 1982, a year to the day of the loss of the boat...The monument conssists of the metallic structure of a type S submarine, set into a granite block. The front part of the sail is directed north. On the face of the memorial is a granite tablet, upon which is engraved, "Pacific Fleet sailors of SS S-178, lost at sea 21 October in the Sea of Japan"...There are 16 submariners buried in the cemetery, 10 more buried in their home regions and the bodies of six were never found.

There are more details about the sinking, including the rescue efforts which seem to have a lot in common with the chaos involved with the Kursk rescue a generation later:

At 2015, the Pacific Fleet duty officer declared an emergency rescue situation and called upon the search and rescue detachment based in Vladivostok. Submarine S-179, base minesweeper BT-284 and the salvage vessel Zhiguli departed the range where they had been conducting training seven minutes later and proceded to the scene of the accident. The salvage vessel Mashuk, a few small boats and the Project 940 (Lenok class) rescue submarine BS-486 Komsomolets Uzbekistan, which was preparing to enter the yards, arrived from Vladivostok. (Note: BS-486 also played a key role two years later in the recovery of the "black box" from the shot down KAL-007).

Caption: India-class rescue submarine BS-486, Golden Horn Bay, Vladivostok, 1999. Source:

At 2100, RFS-13 found a rescue buoy. The rescuers arrived in the following order:
- 2150 the Mashuk and the Project 365 fire-fighting boat PZhK-43,
- 2239 Zhiguli got underway from Preobrazheniya Bay,
- 0120 22 Oct BS-486 and the Project 522 dive tender VM-110

22 October

From 1055 on 22 Oct the floating cranes Bogatyr'-2 and Chernomorets-13 arrived on the scene to place roadstead equipment to assist the rescue ships. The chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral R.A.Golosov was on board the Mashuk to direct the rescue effort.

At 0030 on 22 October, comms were established with the sunken submarine through the rescue buoy. The XO reported the situation about the condition of the crew, the loss of comms with the stern and the lack of individual escape gear. On the basis of this report, HQ calculated the time the crew had left.

There was no food, water or warm clothing. The temperature in the compartment fell to 12 degrees celcius. There were no instruments to measure the amount of toxic gases or oxygen in the air. The level of CO2 was 2.7 percent, despite the fact that two compartments were burning five O2 candles apiece. The reserve of 60 regeneration banks were enough to support life for 60 hours. A person can live 72 hours at an atmospheric pressure of 2.7kg/cm2. An independent ascent would be accompanied by the bends and a longer stay would surely be fatal.

There are tablets hanging in the compartments with instructions for swimming to the surface. There aren't any instructions for how to save oneself after a long stay in a compartment under high pressure. Meanwhile, the submariners know that the longer that they remain under pressure, the less chance there is to save their lives.

Because bad weather was expected in the next two days, headquarters decided not to save the submariners by raising the aft end of the boat and they decided instead to use the rescue submarine, without a glance at the current weather conditions.


On 22 October at 0845, BS-486, in a peacetime first, began rescuing people from the sunken sub.

At 0906, she let out her underwater anchor 15 meters from where S-178 sank so that divers could search the area. But it took three hours for the divers to find S-178(!!!!!!!?????). They inspected the stern for an hour and rapped on the hull to try to establish comms with compartment seven. There was no return signal. They attached a buoy to mark the stern section and departed.

At 1300, the rescue sub began to maneuver to a distance not more than 30 meters from the bow of the sunken boat. (...)

At the same time, conditions in the area deteriorated greatly: a 30 knot north-west wind whipped up and the sea state grew to four. Some of the equipment was not functional and there was a complete lack of search and rescue gear to find an unknown object on the sea floor. The shallow depth in rough seas limited the ability for rescuers to maneuver. BS-486 tried to surface and dive three times. The worst part was losing the radio bouy attached to S-178, which cut off comms at 1410 on 22 October.

It turned out that valuable time was wasted. There was a lack of equipment and the rescue boat spent several hours maneuvering without finding the bow of the sunken boat. There was no real assistance offered.

Kapitan-Lieutenant S.M.Kubynin decided to take a group up to the surface because of the worsening situation. They prepared escape trunk number three. When the pressure was equalized, K2R B.Ya.Karavekov gave the signal. Exiting the lock, the communications officer Kapitan-Lieutenant S.N.Ivanov released the beacon buoy, but he got the buoy lines mixed up and the buoy did not go to the surface.

At 1545 Kap-Lt Ivanov and Sr. Seaman Mal’tsev made a free ascent to the surface. The submariners were found and were put into a decompression chamber 12 minutes later to compensate for the effects of breathing pressurized air for so long.

BS-486 continued to maneuver in the area around the bow of the sunken submarine, but she just couldn’t find it.

The submariners trapped without comms with the surface continued there efforts to save themselves. At 1830, Kap-Lts Kubynin and Zybin sent a second group through escape trunk number four.

Sr. Seaman Anan’yev, Seaman Pashpev and Seaman Khafizov disappeared without a trace: they weren’t found on the surface because it was dark and there was no organized search of the area around the lost submarine. It is possible that a key role in their fate was played by the maneuvering rescue submarine

At 2015, divers from the rescue submarine found the sunken submarine and established comms by tapping back and forth on the hull with the submariners.

BS-486 anchored using her bow anchor and began to reposition using the maneuvering motor to take up the necessary position. After each maneuver, divers corrected her position. Finally the seventh trio of divers to work secured an exit tube to a diving platform to the upper starboard rescue hatch (hatch number three). There they found the failed marker buoy, freed it and checked the connection to the hull and floated it to the surface.

BS-486 used around 17 hours to maneuver into position to offer practical help to the trapped sailors.

23 October

Divers from the rescue submarine began to work at 0303. They loaded six IDA-59 rescue re-breathers into hatch number three, two diving suits and 10 ISP-60 diving tanks, rescue lamps, food and after that the rescue divers exited into the rescue submarine.

By 0400 the gear was taken into the first compartment. Despite the instructions received from the rescuers, Kap-Lt. S.M.Kubynin decided with the Brigade Chief of Staff to send a third group through the air lock.

It seems that the decision was correct: V.Ya.Karavekov was demoralized, the diver’s skills weren’t what they should be and there was no medical help.

At 0554, the third group began its ascent from escape trunk three. Right at that moment, a diver was approaching to deliver gear and saw the opening hatch. The CHENG Yamalov emerged. The diver assisted him in leaving the apparatus and tried to guide him to the entry on the rescue submarine, but the submariner wouldn’t let the diver hook him up to the submarine, tearing off the harness and swimming to the surface. The diver detached from the hull. While he fell a meter or two to the bottom, Seaman Mikushin emerged from the hatch. There was nothing else for the diver to except to report the exit of the sailors to the rescue submarine. K2R B.Ya.Karavekov remained in the escape trunk.

Divers inspected escape trunk number three, found nothing in the eight meter long tube and left more gear and instructions for its use.

While all this was going on, communication between the trapped crew and the divers was poor. There was no standardized set of signals for submarine rescue – they were made up on the spot. A lot of time was wasted in the escape trunks. Additionally, the divers were working a long time in the depths and were freezing. They had to work in 60 to 90 minute shifts. New divers received a pass down on board the rescue submarine, planned their dives and had to establish comms with the sunken boat. There were intervals of time when there were no rescue divers outside the escape trunk.

During underwater operations the divers had their first practical use of much of their equipment in a real live rescue situation. For example, the device built to transfer equipment in to the stricken submarine turned out to be cumbersome and inconvenient.

Around 1000, the submariners closed the forward escape trunk and drained it. The body of a dead officer was inside.

Deciding not to no longer test fate, Kap-Lts S.Kubynin and V.Zybin organized preparations to exit to the surface through a flooded compartment. The submariners took all their gear into compartment two, including the oxygen candles. They unblocked the hatch to escape trunk three. They donned the ISP-60s. There weren’t enough diving suits so they gave them to the crewmembers who would exit last. Eighteen men prepared to exit.

At 1515 they signaled the divers, “Wait for us by the exit of the escape trunk. We are ready to exit.” The compartment began to flood. There was a danger that the flooding could affect the list and trim, causing torpedoes to shift off their skids. Because of this danger, the flooding was deliberate and slow through the forward port upper hatch. The excess air pressure generated was bled off through the sea cock on the depth gauge.

At 1915 they began their exit. The first to exit collided with a foreign object in the escape trunk and had to return to the compartment. The way remained blocked.

After removing the body of V.Ya.Karavekov, the escape trunk still wasn’t cleared of the equipment left there by the rescue divers. Divers placed loaded dive suits and IDAs in escape trunk four.

The weapons officer Kap-Lt V.Zybin entered this complicated situation in escape trunk three. He succeeded in clearing the escape trunk of unnecessary gear. Then, signaling to his comrades about the clear path, he got the attention of the divers and made his way through the rescue apparatus to the rescue submarine.

By 2030 the last one left on the boat was the XO Kap-Lt. S.Kubynin. He exited the escape trunk and, failing to meet the divers, he ended up on the sail of the submarine and lost consciousness. A minute later, he was brought to the surface and was brought aboard a rescue cutter.

Sixteen of the eighteen men exiting the boat through the flooded apartment survived. Seaman P.Kireyev lost consciousness and died in the compartment. Seaman Len’shin wasn’t found by the rescue cutters on the surface or the divers, who searched the escape trunk and the bottom around the sunken boat.

Six men transferred to the rescue submarine. They were transferred to a pressure chamber on board BS-486. They were diagnosed with oxygen poisoning and hypothermia as a result of a long time in the water. Their condition was generally better than their comrades.

The sailors exiting the stricken submarine by means of free ascent were placed in a pressure chamber on the salvage vessel Mashuk. They all suffered from severe decompression sickness. They developed single and double pneumonia and four of them suffered pressure related damage to their lungs. One of them required surgical intervention.

Doctors worked for more than two days in the pressure chamber. All the pressure chambers had to be linked into one system in order to allow enough doctors and specialists to work. After decompression, the stricken sailors were transported to the hospital. All twenty people who exited the sunken submarine under their own power survived and healed. Only one seaman was pronounced as unfit for further submarine service.


Work on raising S-178 began on 24 October. Pontoons were affixed to the deck at a depth of 15 meters and she was transferred to Patrokl Bay, which was shielded from the wind, and placed on the bottom at a depth of 18 meters.

There, divers recovered the bodies of the victims through hatches and the hole in the sixth compartment.

After that, the boat was surfaced with the help of pontoon and a floating crane. The compartments were dried, except for the damaged compartments and the diesels.

On 15 November, the sunken submarine was made seaworthy again.

After offloading the torpedoes in the first compartment, S-178 was carried to the Dal’zavod Shipyard and put into dry dock at 2000, 17 November. Refurbishing the boat was found to be pointless.

The commander of S-178, K3R V.A.Marango and the XO of RFS-13 V.F.Kurdyukov were sentenced to ten years in prison.

After the loss of the S-178, a joint decision between the Navy and industry was made to place bright orange running lights on the submarines, warning all ships that a submarine was running on the surface.

Cold War Stories: Baykonur, Two Generations Ago

Gist: The victims of two accidents are being comemmorated in Baykonur. An R-16 ICBM (SS-7 Saddler) blew up during final preparations for launch 41 years ago, killing almost the entire development team headed by Mikhail Yangel'. By a tragic coincidence, exactly three years later a launch failure killed eight more.

This day is always a cold day in Baykonur, almost winter like, but everyone in the Baykonur space city comes to the memorial, which is a grave for 70 people killed during missile testing. The two tragedies took place on the same day, three years apart, in 1960 and 1963 and killed 132 people. It was the first test of the R-16 ICBM, called the "new nuclear shield against the potential enemy". At 1845, after failing to take off, the missile exploded. The second stage spontaneously activated. Seventy six people died in the fire immediately, among them the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin. The main designer Mikhail Yangel' miraculously survived. Information about the failures were kept secret for years. The dead were said to have simply died in the course of their official duties. Now at the cosmodrome there is evidence of the tragedy. There is now a memorial at launch site 41. Until the 90s, it simply wasn't possible to visit. The tragedy was only acknowledged at the cosmodrome 35 years after the fact. Since recognition in 1995, relatives of the victims have come to pay their respects. There is an eternal flame at the launch site. The wind blows so hard that the flame is almost extinguished and people have trouble standing. All missile and space activities stop on this day to remember.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare is Almost Over



What a shameful fucking joke the Republicans have become, and Palin is just the shit flavored icing on the cake.

What a Piss Poor Paint Job

You think they'd do better, what with the President of the whole fricken' country coming.

Just sayin'....

Flashpoint Sevastopol'.

A Russian sailor died of his injuries after being beaten by "hooligans". After an interview with the widow, the announcer reported that the Ukrainian police arrested three construction workers from Western Ukraine, the Western Ukraine being the source of all the ills in Ukraine because of alleged extreme Ukrainian nationalism, as evidenced by this map of what Ukraine should look like from a Russian perspective:

The title of the blog post I pulled this from is "a poisonous territory".

And these are the types of incidents that have the potential to grow out of control. I was immediately reminded, for some reason, of an incident in the mid-80s when a Serb man was beaten to death by his Albanian neighbor in a dispute in Kosovo. Word circulated in the Serb community that the man was horribly mutilated and abused, including having a broken beer bottle stuffed into his rectum. The rest is history...

The next step to look out for: ethnic Russians receiving Russian Federation passports. Start to worry if you see that...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gulf of Aden Update

Gist: Russia has asked Somalia for a free hand in dealing with piracy. The Baltic Fleet guard ship Neustrashimyy is approaching Somali shores. Meanwhile the situation on the captured Ukrainian ship Faina is approaching catastrophe. Fuel and food have almost run out. After long negotiations, the pirates have refused to hand over the body of the Russian captain. Besides the crew, already held for a month, there are 33 Ukrainian tanks, anti-air missile systems and ammunition stores on board. And today it was learned that the French captured 10 pirates, although they didn't have anything to do with the Faina. They will be delivered to Somalia where they face life in jail.

The whole world is asking, who are these 21st century pirates? Why does piracy flourish in the Gulf of Aden? One of our correspondents went to one of the hottest spots in Somalia with exclusive footage from the French ship on the freeing of a vessel. Why is hijacking ships so profitable? Watch this big story on the 30th of October.

A Unique Operation in Gremikha

(Russian Navy Blog note: Make sure you click the link below and watch the video. The film is astounding if you are into glimpses of the Apocalypse or a real life "World Without Us").

Preparations are being made for a complicated operation to unload fuel from a submarine reactor. It was a unique Alfa class boat with a titanium hull. There were only a few boats with this kind of hull in the whole world and they all served in our Northern Fleet. Unfortunately, these boats have turned out to be dangerous, not only for the enemy, but to themselves also. Two of the boats have suffered accidents. In order to remove the fuel, the nuclear workers are ready for some hard work. Natal'ya Solov'yeva talks about this unique submarine base and about this sad legacy of the cold war.

(Start Video Here)

One hundred seventy nautical miles - this harbor is reachable only by water. The closed city (ZATO) Ostrovnoy is divided into two areas, separated by two kilometers - Gremikha and Ostovnaya.

Almost 30,000 people lived here in the 70s and now there are barely 3,000. The first Soviet submarines were based here back in the day. The who West called it "the hornet's nest" with fear and envy. The first nuclear submarine, the Leninskiy Komsomol and the legendary K-19 tied up to the piers here. By the middle of the 90s, the Russian leadership began to pare the numbers of boats. Now there are no boats, or even piers here. The last nuclear submarine was towed to the Nerpa Shipyard a week ago. The reminders of the fleet that was stationed here in Gremikha 30 years ago are now rusting ships and nuclear waste thrown out into the open air. Eight years ago the Ministry of Defense transfered responsiblity for the dangerous legacy to FGUP SevRAO. In 2001 this consisted of 800 radioactive moderator rods and six nuclear reactors from Alfa class boats. All the rods are stored here today, two reactors have been unloaded and a third is on the way.

Valeriy Pantaleyev, Director of SevRAO: There was a reactor accident on the boat here about 30 years ago, and now the background radiation inside the compartment where they are going to have to work is pretty high.

The operation, which is being carried out by Murmansk Oblast' nuclear workers, is unique and dangerous. The equipment for this operation is only found in Gremikha and the greatest scientific institutes are consulting. Twenty two seperate organizations are involved. Only the Nuclear Inspection Directorate of the Ministry of Defense can give to okay to proceed.

VP: Never and noone. Nobody can do anything representitives from there. We need a lot of money in order to rebuild the facilities to handle this material and prepare personnel for the job.

Personnel is a touchy question for SevRAO. People are leaving the settlement. Out of 68 specialists working on the project, 40 got apartments back "ashore". And by law they should leave. But the mission will be completed in a few years, despite the difficulty, and then the rest of the people can leave Gremikha. There is the problem that personnel working on the site have very narrow specialties. Larisa Poyarkova - the crane lady, has been working on site for eight years (Russian Navy Blogger note: in my experience, its always a "crane lady". Strange). When the transfer of the containers to the ship begins, a great deal of responsibility will land on her shoulders. And what happens to her after this waste heap is cleaned up, Larisa doesn't know.

Larisa Poyarkova, crane lady: I can't even imagine. I've thought about this and I don't know how to do anything else. This is my job.

A school, stores and a community center all operate in Ostrovnyy. Windows are lit up in the homes. Gremikha is a town whose buildings have black eyes for windows. It's not worth saving the town. The main thing in the opinion of the scientists, nuclear workers and politicians is to make sure that the land is clean.

But it is very probable that in a few dozen years, everything will be have to be rebuilt from scratch. More to the point, rebuilt from the pier, since you can only reach Gremikha by water.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Awesomely Bad Defense Trinkets

Danger Room is running an "Awesomely Bad Defense Trinkets" contest and I thought I would share my entry, a lamp with a missile on top that I got from a missile factory in Ukraine. It came in a Styrofoam case shaped like a re-entry vehicle. It is truly one of my most treasured possessions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Russia Starts Here

(View of Avachinskaya Bay from Vilyuchinsk. Source:

An article about by far the most beautiful place in Russia that the Russian Navy Blogger has visited (no snark). There is absolutely nothing like cutting through a fog bank on an August morning on Avachinskaya Bay with the volcanoes looming in the background and an Akula DIW, waiting for pier space a few hundred yards away. Unforgettable.

The Vilyuchinsk Submarine Base Waits For Borey

Until recently, the existence of the submarine base at Vilyuchinsk was known to a narrow circle of people - our sailors and their colleagues in the NATO Alliance. On NATO charts it was labeled "hornet's nest" - the place where Pacific Fleet submarines were based. In order to understand the combat potential of the Pacific Fleet SSBNs based there, we will note that a single salvo from just one Project 667BDR SSBN (Delta III class) will deliver 48 200kt warheads to the probable enemy. The damage to such a country, such as the USA, would be unacceptable.

Night Flight

The possibility to visit the Pacific Fleet base on Kamchatka, see the nuclear submarines and talk to the submariners came about due to the personal invitation of the Russian Minister of Defense Anatoliy Serdyukov. It's a nine hour flight from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. There is time to forget pressing problems and the daily grind. You can physically feel the enormous size of our country while crossing time zones in the salon of the Il-62M.

Russia was created by the labor of dozens of generations of Russian people, by the exploits of our Army and Navy, by the political power of Russian Tsars. The country has known times glorious and dark. And as always, a weak government has invited chaos, evident in the thousand year Russian history. There are examples of this during the 300 year reign of the Romanovs, during Soviet rule as well as in recent times.

(Cut out: a three paragraph rumination on the power of Russian rulers, from the Tsars through Stalin and the future legacy of Vladimir Putin.)

"Hornet's Nest"

Vice Admiral Konstantin Sedenko, Commander of the Pacific Fleet and Vice Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, Commander, Russian North-East Forces met us at the airfield at Yelizovo. We set off for Vilyuchinsk. The city is considered a closed city (ZATO) and entry is restricted to local citizens with passes. All cars are inspected at the entry control point. Outsiders haven't yet set foot here. Along the way there are a lot of sites with fences decorated with signs that read "Military Site. Trespassers will be shot without warning". Such is the exotic local sights. The Commander of the Pacific Fleet commented along the way, from time to time admonishing, "Photography in that direction is not permitted". What can you do?

The goal of our visit - the SSBN Saint George the Victorious (K1R Sergey Yesyunin, commanding) and the Project 949A SSGN Omsk (K1R Valeriy Savon, commanding). The guests from Moscow meet the Commander of the 16th Submarine Squadron, Rear Admiral Konstantin Maklakov and the Commander of the 25th Submarine Division, Rear Admiral Sergey Rekish at the piers, where the boats are moored. There's a briefing and an invitation to board the submarine follows. By the way, the President of Russia Dmitriy Medvedyev was on board the Saint George very recently and we literally were following in his steps.

The commander of Saint George the Victorious, K1R Sergey Yesyunin, is young - he just turned 38 on the 12th of August. He's got the Pacific Fleet Makarov School and the Officer's Advanced Course at the Maritime Acadamy under his belt. The officer makes a very good impression, just like the rest of the crew, by the way. The concentration on their Russian faces projects steady professionalism. Service on a nuclear submarine entails risk and much depends on each member of the crew. The main task of an SSBN - to carry out the orders of the Commander in Chief. Readiness for nuclear war - it isn't just words here, its an everyday reality. If it were to become necessary, the sailors must carry out their duty clearly and without wavering. The nuclear deterrent, maintaining strategic parity with the United States is on the shoulders of these people.

K1R Sergey Yesyunin reports on the use of missile weapons after receiving the corresponding command to do so and the time necessary to fire a missile salvo. It's impressive, indeed! Even in the event of a first strike on Russia, the aggressor will receive a guaranteed return strike - retaliation will be unavoidable. The actual targets are not named - they are simply "land targets". We will note that the RSM-50 (SS-N-18) SLBM has a range of around 6500km. Project 667BDR submarines have the ability to fire from a submerged or surfaced position and while deployed or while at the pier.

The construction of the Kal'mar class (another name for Delta III) at the Rubin Shipyard under the guidance of S.N.Kovalev began in 1975. The navy received 14 of these boats. Their main battery consists of 16 RSM-50 with three independently targetable warheads.

The Pacific Fleet had 8 Project 667BDR submarines at the start of the 21st century which carried 128 missiles (384 warheads). Four submarines have been stricken and sent to the Far Eastern Zvezda shipyard for scrapping: K-449, K-455, K-490 and K-180. Now there are five Project 667BDR SSBNs in the Pacific Fleet order of battle: K-44 Ryazan' (recently arrived from the Northern Fleet), K-506 Zelenograd, K-211 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, K-223 Podol'sk and K-443 Saint George the Victorious. This is 80 missiles with 240 warheads.

Taking into account the almost three decades of service, they need to be replaced soon. And their replacement is being readied - this is the Project 955 Borey class SSBN with the solid fueled Bulava-30 SLBM. Right now, OAO Sevmash is building three of this class and five more hulls will be laid down in the coming years.

There has been a complete overhaul of the piers in anticipation of the arrival of the Boreys in Vilyuchinsk as well as an organization of technical services for the new systems, the installation of modern communications systems, the modernization of the training center and introduction of new training simulators.

Task for the Special Construction Units

The capital improvements of the infrastructure at Vilyuchinsk is undoubtedly the work of Vladimir Putin. The first time he visited was in 2004 during the Mobility-2004 strategic exercises. What Putin saw then left a bad impression. The infrastructure was in poor condition. Many buildings were constructed 30 or 40 years ago and were simply dilapidated. The sailors simply didn't have normal conditions in which to serve, relax or live. A resolution was adopted during Putin's visit on the necessity to rebuild the base for the submarine squadron and the living conditions at the village of Rybachiy.

Rebuilding the special support structures, the domiciles, the utility network and the shore infrastructure of ZATO Vilyuchinsk and the 16th Squadron was organized according to the 24 June, 2004, order of the President of the Russian Federation.

Despite the distance to the construction site from the Special Construction base, a whole range of structures were put into service thanks to the delivery of men and materials by airplanes and ships of FGUP GUSS and Far East Special Construction. Among the buildings to come on line between 2005 and 2007 were the Officer's Club, the Sailor's Club, Middle School No.3, the 16th Submarine Squadron HQ, the Ocean Fitness Complex and the garrison hospital and clinic.

One of the peculiarities of the buildings is that they were equipped with the most modern engineering equipment and systems to withstand a force 9 or 10 earthquake.

Additionally, in 2007, Special Construction with the cooperation of the Pacific Fleet and the leadership of ZATO Vilyuchinsk performed renovations of four apartment buildings. Fifteen ruined multi-story apartment buildings were raised and a car park and a children's playground were put in their place.

Vladimir Putin visited Vilyuchinsk again on 05 September, 2007, to personally oversee his writ. The Commander of the Pacific Fleet reported on the completion of the master reconstruction plan for the Squadron base and the progress of the preparations to receive the new Project 995 SSBNs to the President. The Commander in Chief visited one of the piers where the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and the Magadan were moored.

As Vladimir Putin noted back then, much had been done over the previous three years to improve the lives of service members and their families, but 1800 officers still lived in unsatisfactory conditions. "Russian officers should live well", the President said. Putin ordered the Ministry of Defense to prepare a program to improve the living conditions of service members in Primorskiy Kray.

Specialists from Special Construction began to make preparations to work on new apartment buildings and recreation centers for the inhabitants of Vilyuchinsk - three improved apartment buildings and two kindergartens for 400 kids. The first of these, the kindergarten "Fairy Tale", was opened in a ceremony on 27 June, 2008.

The first sixty family improved apartment building will be opened at the end of October, 2008. Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg will envy these apartments. Spacious halls and kitchens, large, light rooms. The area of a typical three room (two bedroom by our standards) apartment is 100 square meters (1070 square feet). The director of Special Construction, General of the Army Nikolay Abros'kin proudly showed off not only the apartments built by Far East Special Construction, but other buildings also. These include the magnificent Officer's Club, the Officer's dorm, the "Fairy Tale" kindergarten, the military hospital and other buildings. All the materials and equipment had to arrive from the mainland. The progress achieved in four years is evident. But a lot of work lays ahead. Russian President Dmitriy Medvedyev promised the submariners an indoor hockey rink during his recent visit to Vilyuchinsk.

We surveyed Avachinskaya Bay from a boat with the Commander of the Pacific Fleet at the conclusion of our visit. The bay is huge - second largest on the planet and capable of holding all the ships in all the fleets in the world. It cuts 24km deep into the land. Its width at the entrance is three km and it is up to 26 meters deep. The area of this watery mirror is around 215 square km. Nature has given Russia a unique place, ideal for basing ships and submarines. Immediately after exiting the bay, the depth drops off to five km - there our nuclear submarines "dissolve", avoiding the numerous American hunters, like the Los Angeles and Seawolf classes which hang out nearby, trying to "sit on the tail" of Russian submarines departing on combat duty.

"Positive changes ongoing in the Russian Armed Forces testify to the attention that the army and the fleet are receiving from the state", emphasized the assistant Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov. Construction at these garrisons, like at Vilyuchinsk, will become more common. At our departure, the Pacific Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Konstantin Sedenko said that he would be happy if Vilyuchinsk was protected from air attack by the newest S-400 air defense system. He hopes that this desire finds a foothold in the State Armament Program. What's more, as was said during Medvedyev's recent visit, we will restore any and all presence in the region, including our military presence. The national interests of Russia demands it.

Editor in Chief, "VPK", Member of the Ministry of Defense Advisory Council
Vilyuchinsk - Moscow

Do Svidanya, Komrad!

Severodvinsk, 19 October. The Zvezdochka Shipyard of Serverodvinsk will dismantle the multipurpose Project 971 SSN K-480 Bars, the last in a series of third generation submarines.

According to open sources, K-480 Bars was constructed at Sevmash in Severodvinsk in 1978 and stricken from service in 1988. The Project 971 Shchuka-B boats (NATO: Akula 2) was developed in Saint Petersburg at the Malakhit design bureau. Fourteen of these boats were contructed in Severodvinsk and Komsomolsk-na-Amur. The last boat, the Gepard, was delivered by Sevmash in 2001. Since then the fleet has not recieved any new nuclear submarines.

According to, linked to in the text, the timeline for the boat's service was a little different. According to this source, the boat was laid down in 1985, accepted into service in 1989 and stricken in 2002.

Any way you slice it, something was wrong with this boat as its service life was way too short.

But as an American, I have to say that I look forward to shaving with it.

Peter the Great Update: Port Call, Turkey

I wonder what happened to Latakia/Tartus? Debkafile said the whole Russian fleet was there already.

The Chabanenko and the Peter the Great prepare for a four day port call at an unspecified naval base in Turkey. The honor guard practices for the reception and the crew is apparently forced to write letters home. The letters will be sent via diplomatic pouch back to Russia. After four days anchored out in Turkey, the task force will finally head to Venezuela.

Pirates Must Shit or Get Off Pot Soon

The Russian are Coming

The Baltic Fleet guard ship (SKR) Neustrashimyy is transiting the Suez Canal on Tuesday and will set course for the Somali littoral according to high-level sources in the Navy General Staff.

After passing through the Suez, Neustrashimyy will transit the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and end up in the Arabian Sea around Somalia. Before her stands the mission of defending shipping against piracy, convoy of Russian flagged ships and protection of Russian crews and crewmembers," the Admiral said.

According to the Admiral, there is a real threat of capture of Russian ships in the Gulf of Aden around the Horn of Africa.

Earlier the Russian Navy spokesman K1R Igor' Dygalo told RIA Novosti that if the situation around the Ukrainian flagged ship Faina isn't settled by the time the Neustashimyy gets to her assigned area, then the ship will be subject to action by foreign ships which, for the time being, control the maritime situation and are tracking the situation surrounding the ship.

He reminded everyone that UN resolutions adopted recently, aimed at focusing international attention on the problem of piracy, is the foundation of Russian Navy participation in curbing piracy in the Somali littoral.

The SKR Neustrashimyy departed Baltiysk on the 24th of September, setting sail for Somalia to support the security of shipping along the coast of that country. In part, the possibility of the Russian vessel assisting in the freeing of the Faina, which was taken by pirates on 25 September, is not excluded.

The ship was carrying weapons, including 33 T-72 tanks. There is one Latvian, three Russians and 17 Ukrainians on board. The captain, Vladimir Kolobkov, who was a Russian, died. Pirates are threatening to kill the hostages in the event of an operation to free them by force.

According to western analysts, Somali pirates have captured about 60 foreign vessels for ransom in 2008. Their total profits this year may reach 30 million dollars.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Someone Thought the Cole Refueling in Aden was a Good Idea, Too

(Caption: Kashin class BPK 505 Sposobnyy somewhere between Yemen and Ethiopia, 1985. Source:

The President of Yemen may bring up the issue of re-establishment of Russian naval bases on Socotra during his visit to Moscow.

Sana'a, 16 Oct. (ITAR-TASS). The speaker of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov does not exclude the possibility that during the Yemeni President would bring up the issue of re-establishing Russian naval bases on Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden during his visit to Moscow.

In answer to the question if Russia has any plans to do so, Mironov said, "I think that this theme will be discussed concretely during Ali Abdallah Saleh's visit to Moscow". Mironov did not discuss the length of the visit.

The speaker considers the future use of Yemeni ports by the Russian Navy as well as re-establishment of a base to be possible. "We have to proceed step by step, taking into account new vectors in the foreign and defense policies of Russia and the increase in op tempo by the Navy. I think that its possible that we will examine the issue of the use of Yemeni ports by Russian Naval ships", he said.

(Caption: Flight deck entertainment, BPK 505 Sposobnyy, Socotra Anchorage, 1987. Note the use of the ships drum kit by the band. Source and more Socotra liberty pics:

Vikramadit'ya Ready for Re-Launch

Caption: "Soon she will leave the dock, 10 Oct 2008"

Sevmash is finishing preparations for re-floating the aircraft carrier Vikramadit'ya, currently being re-equipped for the Indian Navy according to a correspondent from the website

"This is an extremely important step in the technological shipbuilding chain," according to the assistant general director for military-technical cooperations Sergey Novoselov. "Therefore we are taking the preparations very seriously."

The documents certifying the completion of work on the hull and the painting of the outer hull were prepared. Workers in the graving dock are disassembling the scaffolding. The operation is complex and will take some time: it will take until the end of October to free it from the entangling web of scaffolding, totalling 200km in length. Besides that, the last 10 (out of 116) tanks need to be painted and eight need to be pressure tested.

After the stempost of the carrier touches the waves once again, the ship will moor at the factory seafront. Then begins the loading of the massive pieces of equipment in the boiler room and the arresting gear, which accoridng to Novoselov, couldn't be done while she was in dry dock.

Area Closure

20 AND 21 OCT AND 0400Z TO 0700Z DAILY 21 AND 22 OCT
41-57.5N 131-32.0E, 42-32.3N 133-32.0E,
42-41.0N 133-02.5E, 42-41.0N 133-28.7E,
43-33.0N 135-37.0E, 42-20.0N 136-02.0E,
40-57.2N 135-38.5E.

Point "C" is actually over land on some sort of facility:

For my half-assed "analysis" of a previous Sea of Japan missile closure, see here. I did not note any results from any exercises that may have been held in the September Sea of Japan area closure.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Deep Thought

Colin Powell is right. So what if Obama is Muslim?

I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President?

Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Georgians Greet the Barry Warmly

The Georgians greeted the American destroyer Barry in a ceremony with Georgian wine accompanied by a children's choir. According to the Americans there are no humanitarian nor military cargoes. Tbilisi acknowledges that the visit is of a friendly nature. They will remain in Georgia three days. Meetings are planned by the Americans with the Georgian military establishment and also the crew will help to paint a local school.