K-219 - sunken fortress
More than 25 years have passed since those events, but so far historians and specialists are asking questions about the causes of the incident. This cannot but interest because one of the most dangerous ships in the world at that time, which was a kind of hybrid of a submarine and a rocket base, went to a five-kilometer depth. In addition to weapons-grade plutonium, as well as uranium rods, there were several quintals of pressed TNT, tons of nitric and sulfuric acid, as well as a very caustic rocket fuel oxidizer, heptyl, on board. And all of the above arsenal was stored in the compartments of the submarine, was pumped into barrels, interchanged with cables, wires and sent to sea with hundreds of people on board. A feature film was shot about the catastrophe that occurred, many books and articles were written, but the true cause of the accident remained unexplained.
Strategic missile submarine cruiser K-219 was equipped and sent to the shores of America for a timely response to the attack from the enemy. Sixteen ballistic missiles, placed aboard the submarine and having the lowest flight time, were ready to launch and strike at Detroit, Washington and San Francisco. This was a response to the missile systems deployed in Germany, Turkey and the UK, restoring a kind of diabolical balance of the “cold” confrontation. The submarine was the twenty-first ship of the series, produced by the project 667A, and was part of the Navy 31 December 1971 of the year. In 1974, the submarine was upgraded by the 667AU project. After that, in its arsenal, the ship had 16 missiles RSM-25 with a range of about 3 thousands of kilometers and 28 torpedoes, 20 of which were placed in the first compartment of the ship, and 8 - in the tenth compartment. In addition, the power plant (main power plant) boats had two nuclear reactors. The ship's displacement was 9300 tons with a maximum immersion depth of 400 meters, and the autonomy reached 90 days. On board the ship was a crew of 119 people led by the commander, captain of the 2 rank Igor Anatolyevich Britanov, who graduated from WWMURE in 1971 year. He was granted permission to control the ship on his own in 1981. This was the third combat patrol, led by Britanova, who, in addition to controlling a ship of this type, had a significant swimming qualification.
Despite the fact that according to the analysis of the personnel who entered the military service on that ill-fated campaign, out of thirty-one officers, eleven were replaced, including assistant commanders, chiefs of the main combat units, as well as 16 of 38 midshipmen, the crew with all responsibility performed preparatory operations according to a well-established schedule. Such a serious personnel reshuffle was dictated by the fact that five large ships went on patrol at the same time and it was necessary to solve the problems of forming a team on the go, in a fairly short time. In fairness, it should be noted that during the period under review, in the current situation of tough confrontation between nuclear powers, the load on warships that went on campaigns two to three times during the year increased significantly. This naturally affected the technical condition of the ships operating at the limit of their capabilities. In addition, the level of the repair base available at that time did not at all correspond to those set before fleet serious tasks. Under the pressure of the circumstances, when the submariners had to go on hikes all the time, and many of them forgot about their planned vacations, personnel mess and going out on non-native ships became the norm. In such conditions, no one remembered the cohesion of the crew and the “feeling of the elbow”. And yet, the level of training of the team members and the condition of the submarine did not cause any concern, everything went a bit messy, but at the proper level. The crew sent to K-219 had experience working on a similar K-241 engine, and the commander could not refuse to patrol with strangers to him. As it usually happens with us, the Motherland persistently demanded the performance of the debt, despite adverse conditions.
So, September 4 1986, in full accordance with the plan, the PKK CH K-219 was released for combat service. The tragedy began in the Sargasso Sea on the thirtieth day of the campaign, when on October 3 the 4.56 boat floated to the periscope depth to conduct a scheduled communication session, and then, five minutes later, began to sink again to the 85-meter depth. Subsequent events developed rapidly in the following chronological order:
5.14 - a drip leak was found by crew members from under the cap of the sixth rocket shaft. Attempting to eliminate the leak by pressing the plug led to the fact that it increased even more and flowed.
5.25 - the submarine commander makes the decision to ascend to a safe (this is 46 meters) depth, while a pump is activated to drain the sixth shaft.
5.32 - brown poisonous fumes of the fuel oxidizer are starting to flow into the fourth compartment from under the stub. The commander of the warhead-2 reports on the situation on the GKP and announces an emergency alarm. The personnel, in addition to nine people, leave the dangerous compartment, and the remaining crew members take the measures for fighting the survivability of the ship, established for such situations, and carry out the sealing of the compartments.
5.38 - an explosion occurs in the sixth shaft. By this time, the submarine is already at a safe depth. The fourth compartment is filled with black smoke, and from the pipelines destroyed by the explosion, water mixed with rocket fuel begins to flow. Assessing the situation, the commander decides to begin ascent to the surface position. At the moment in the fourth compartment, there is a strong gas contamination, and the amount of water that has filled the emergency compartment is approximately 4,5 tons. It was dangerous that for some period of time control over missiles in other mines was lost. Out of order: a common speakerphone device, radio transmitter P-651 and intercoms in the fourth and fifth compartments. In addition, lighting and high pressure piping was partially damaged. The power plant's control panel signaled a violation of the left side power supply, as a result of which water supply valves for steam generators in this part of the boat and a number of valves of the third circuit opened. At the same time, the Kama power system signaled a complete drop in the insulation resistance in the electrical networks of both sides. In the third and fifth compartments, at the command of the GKP, defense lines and blowing air are created.
6.10 - teams of the fifth and sixth sections are transferred to the eighth turbine unit.
6.17 - from the fourth compartment report on the impossibility of finding people in this part of the ship, prepare the fifth compartment for their transfer.
6.35 - personnel leaves the fourth emergency compartment, but three people, led by the CU-2 commander, remain inside. The commander of the warhead-5 gives the order to commission the GEM of the port side.
6.45 - an emergency team of two crew members is sent to assist and assess the situation in the fourth compartment. Increased smoke did not allow them to examine in detail the state of the sixth missile mine and find the commander of the warhead-2, but the bodies of the sailors Smaglyuk and Kharchenko were taken out. The members of the reconnaissance team failed to detect the source of ignition that caused the explosion.
7.25 - ventilation of the fourth and sixth compartments was started, and with the onset of daylight, the senior assistant commander managed to inspect the sixth shaft from the side of the felling fence. A torn shaft cover, a deformed rocket deck, partially torn covers of the covers of the remaining mines were found. In the area of the emergency mine, from which brown smoke continued to flow, structural damage is visible.
8.51 - rescue team of two people is sent to the fourth compartment again. Due to improved visibility and the absence of additional water supply, the body of Petrachkov, captain of the 3 rank (commander of the CU-2), was found. The hold of the compartment was drained through the main line and a system for pumping overboard water from the sixth mine was prepared. But after starting the pump, water and brown smoke began to flow into the upper part of the mine due to damage in the pipelines, so the pump was stopped and all gas appliances and satellites were removed from the compartment.
9.25 - a starboard power plant has been commissioned. The decision was made on the emergency discharge of the rocket oxidizer and the pumping of the mine. To carry out the work, four groups of members of the CU-2 and C-5 team were instructed and sent to the fourth compartment. Each pumping attempt contributed to an increase in gas pollution by the oxidant vapors and the entry of water into the emergency compartment. When the last group managed to start the emergency drain pump, the incoming water began to flood the electrical equipment. This caused a closure in the panels, which resulted in a fire. The pumps stopped due to a power outage, and the emergency team was ordered to leave the compartment.
17.54 - PCG decides on the supply of freon from the chemical extinguishing system of the third compartment to the fourth compartment. But with the beginning of gas supply due to defects in the pipeline, freon penetrates into the third compartment, therefore, its supply has to be stopped.
18.00 - due to the deterioration of the gas composition of the air in the third compartment and a large concentration of nitrogen oxides in it, part of the crew was forced to move to the second compartment. Radio communication was interrupted, as the personnel had to leave the communication post. The team did not transmit a report on the situation on the submarine, nor did they receive a radiogram of the Commander of the Northern Fleet, containing recommendations for eliminating the consequences of the accident and fighting for survivability.
18.40 - after the opening of the bulkhead door between the fourth and fifth compartments and the detection of heavy smoke in the fifth compartment, the survey crew members decided that a fire had started there, which was reported to the DKP. Freon from the sixth to the fifth compartment was started.
19.30 - power disappears on the starboard network. The emergency protection of the reactor was launched, but it was not possible to completely lower the compensating grids.
19.50 - from the seventh compartment reported that the lower part of the sixth comes smoke. People were ordered to leave the compartment, but they failed to close the bulkheads, as a result of which everyone had to move on to the eighth compartment. It was found that the pressure in the ship's hydraulics system dropped to zero, and to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, members of the BS-5 command team Belik (senior lieutenant) and Preminin (sailor) were manually sent to the seventh compartment to lower the compensation grids. Three times they tried to lower the grilles, after which Lieutenant Belikov lost consciousness, and Sergei Preminin had to act independently. At the same time, the eighth, ninth and tenth compartments were ventilated, which made it possible to lower the pressure to atmospheric. In the seventh compartment, it remained elevated. For this reason, it was difficult to open the bulkhead door leading to the eighth compartment. When trying to equalize the pressure by evacuating the bottom of the eighth compartment, brown smoke began to flow out again from the pipeline. To reduce the pressure, Preminin tried to open a vent valve at the cost of his own life, but he did not manage to do this. The emergency group, which tried to open the flap from the opposite side, did not cope with this task either.
21.30 - Navy ships have already begun to approach the accident area to assist K-219. The first to arrive at the accident site were the ships Krasnogvardeisk, Fedor Bredikhin and Bakaritsa.
23.00 - on the basis of the fact that gas pollution in the compartments was constantly increasing, and the AES had already exhausted its life, while the temperature of the valve between the third and fourth compartments continued to grow, the submarine commander decided to stop the left-side reactor to avoid an explosion of missiles. The training of personnel for evacuation to the rescued vessels begins.
1.00 - crew evacuation is over, all hatches were closed and battened down. Only five K-219 and British officers are left on board.
1.46 - a message from the ship commander about the fire in all compartments and the absence of a turn was transmitted to the Navy Central Pillar Center. Britons are asking for permission to leave the ship.
3.00 - the SF commander gives the order to leave the boat, only the commander remains on board the K-219.
22.45 - an emergency group lands on the boat to assess the situation. The first three compartments were dry, emergency lighting worked, the pressure in them was normal. The hull of the boat above the fourth and seventh compartments had a higher temperature, the pressure in the air system dropped twice, and there was no pressure in the hydraulic system at all. Blowing the main ballast nasal tanks to the emergency group managed to level the trim and begin preparing the boat for towing. With the arrival of darkness, the emergency crew left the boat, and the work was suspended.
At dawn, work continued and in 18.15 Krasnogvardeisk began towing K-219. At the same time, the trim on the bow and the draft of the ship continued to grow, as a result of which the 6 of October in the 6.20 cable, unable to withstand the load, broke, and the stern and bow hatches went under water. It was impossible to descend into the third compartment, as the lower hatch was jammed. As a result, the boat was losing buoyancy every minute, and when the water reached the level of the superstructure deck, the emergency group left the boat. But the commander of the K-219 remained on board until he received an order from the Navy Civil Code in 11.00. The boat literally went out from under his feet and sank in 11.03.
While the highest state officials were deciding how best to present information to our people and the whole world, the relevant authorities had already considered the facts of the tragedy. As usual, a criminal case was instituted, the perpetrators of the adverse outcome were those who showed real heroism in saving the boat and fought to the end. The commander of the submarine, the political officer and the commander of the CU-5 were dismissed under the article "service mismatch", and the crew was disbanded. And all this only for the fact that at the cost of four lives they were able to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, stabilizing the situation and conducting a full and consistent set of measures to fight for survivability. However, these measures seemed insufficient. Sergey Preminin was awarded posthumously the Order of the Red Star, and only eleven years later he was awarded the title Hero of Russia. At the end of the work of the investigative commission, a decision was made, stating that the cause of the accident was the flooding of the sixth mine with water and rocket fuel entering it. As the cause of ignition, ignition and explosion, the wrong actions of the crew, who did not irrigate and did not otdraivanie kremalyery of the shaft cover when the boat reached the surface position were named. Members of the submarine crew were also blamed for the distribution of nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere of the compartments. After all, according to the authoritative commission, the gases spread precisely because the crew too often visited the emergency compartment to carry out reconnaissance and rescue operations. And, finally, the cause of the ship sinking was the flow of seawater through the leaky sections of the hull and its distribution through the left uncovered valves and vent flaps between the compartments.
According to one version, the cause of depressurization could be a significant mechanical damage to the hull of a submarine, obtained during combat patrols. But nothing is known about the fact that this damage, which was actually discovered later on the submarine hull, could well have been left by close contact with another boat belonging to the US Navy. When studying the relevant information, it becomes clear that this version is not completely unfounded, but it remained buried outside the doors of the secret departments of both powers of the “cold” confrontation. The leadership of the USSR also had questions regarding the possibility of sabotage, which led not only to a boat accident, but also to the breakage of a cable while towing a ship. According to some views, this was done in order to be able to later raise the sunken boat off the American coast to explore. There were those who accused the commander of the ship of the incident and were indignant why he did not go to the bottom along with the submarine.
Even the opposite side of the political conflict recognized the fact of the competence and correct actions of the commander of K-219, showing due respect to a person who had been alone with a nuclear powder keg smoldering under him for several nights. The wreckage of the submarine is still resting on the bottom, the spread of radiation due to the destruction of nuclear warheads with plutonium has not been fully investigated.
On the basis of a correct analysis of all cases of emergencies on water and under water, a thorough study of them, it is possible to develop an effective system of measures to prevent possible malfunctions, which will be carried out throughout the life of the ship. But time passes, each such incident ends with the creation of commissions of inquiry, making certain, sometimes completely absurd, decisions, and the ships continue to sink under unexplained circumstances.
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