MosNews Synopsis of AS-28 Saga
MosNews has a timeline up of last week's events of the trapping and subsequent rescue of the crew of AS-28. They also provide some guesses as to what was happening behind the scenes:
"The first and only official cause of the accident was a fishing net. That was what the navy insisted upon from the start, that is what Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Viktor Fyodorov said, and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov named nets as the culprits when he commented on the results of the rescue operation.
"Still, the journalists doubted the version from the start. First of all, sailors from the region said that there had never been any fishing in the Berezovaya Bay. Official sources immediately implicated illegal poachers, and closed the issue. But then the Kommersant daily, citing its sources in the navy, reported that propellers of the submarine have special mechanisms protecting them from such incidents. [Note: That would be the Russian equivalent of a "rope guard", I guess.] Moreover, the newspaper named specifically the kind of research the submarine was conducting: they were to replace a part of a hydro acoustical apparatus installed with the aim of fighting nuclear submarines from the United States. The mysterious “60-tonn anchor” was really a part of that system, just as a large number of various cables and wires. In light of this, it becomes clear why military officials categorically refused to blow up the object which the submarine had gotten entangled in. This can also explain the statements made by former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Eduard Baltin, who, just as the rescue operation was in full swing, spoke out against sending foreign aid to the area.
"Still, the current commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Viktor Fyodorov did not listen to his former colleague. He said that “the most important is to save to people.” Moreover, the Admiral clarified that according to current treaties, Russian underwater ships are analogous to foreign ones, while international inspectors are active on Russian territory just as they are on American territory. Moreover, the bathyscaphe is located beyond Russia’s territorial waters, so according to international law our country cannot limit traffic in the area."
I've been looking for any open source information about this so-called active "hydro acoustical apparatus" but haven't found anything yet. Since it apparently isn't a big secret anymore, I can say that I heard it when I was in the North Pacific many years ago; I never really considered it a big threat, though.
They also talk about what happened to Russia's other submarine rescue assets that should have been in the area:
"According to instructions on board the ship that delivered the AS-28 to its destination, there should have been an analogous submarine that could have theoretically rescued the first, had it gotten into an accident. But the Georgy Kozmin did not carry a second bathyscaphe because of the worn-out condition it was in. In the end, the only thing the base ship could have done to save the mini-submarine was to send a signal to shore.
"On the next day, 10 naval fleets were dispatched to the area, including the rescue ship Alagez, which was also supposed to be quipped with two deep-sea bathyscaphes… except that in reality, it didn’t have a single one on board — both were under construction long before August 4. [Note: I think this is probably a mis-translation of "repair".] And, the chief specialist responsible for the Alagez’s deep-sea operations — including a rigging team and divers capable of working at a depth of over 100 meters — was on vacation. As a result, even if it had been equipped for deep-sea operations, the ship was all but useless — it could only have helped drag the submarine closer to shore together with the nine other ships (incidentally, five years ago Alagez was slated to be sold to a scrap metal plant in South Korea, but after the sinking of the Kursk submarine, it was decided that the Alagez should be kept for rescue operations just in case).
"Also on Friday, Vladivostok dispatched the rescue ship Sayany, which did have perfectly usable bathyscaphes on board. But it only reached the site of the accident three days later."
No reasons are given in the article as to why the bathyscaphes on Sayany couldn't be flown from Vladivostok to Petropavlovsk -- if I had to guess, I'd say it was an ass-covering move on the part of Pacific Fleet commanders, who knew those submersibles didn't work either, and knew by this time that the Brits and Americans were on their way. "Oh, yeah, we could have used these ones, but sea transport takes a long time..." It is about 1200 miles from Vlad to Petr', so if for some reason none of the ships in Petropavlovsk couldn't carry the mini-subs, what they did make sense. In this case, contrary to my normal rule, I'll go with the "malice" excuse. [My normal rule being: "Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence."]
Here's another article with more on the British rescue team, who are on their way home; it says the team members received as tokens of appreciation from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov... wait for it... Russian watches. Oh, well, it's the thought that counts.
Staying at PD...