The Old Year is going out with a bang–several, actually–in the Russian military. (And just think: they have an extra two weeks to add to the record.)
The biggest of the disasters was the fire aboard the Delta IV class SSN Yekaterinburg.* This culminates a year of maritime catastrophes in Russia that eclipses even the country’s horrific toll of air disasters in 2011: recall the sinking of the Bulgaria, the fire on another cruise ship in Moscow, and the recent sinking of the oil rig.
The Yekaterinburg caught fire while in dry dock undergoing repairs. Initial reports state that the fire started when sparks from a welding torch ignited some inflammable material left lying around, which then set alight wooden scaffolding on which men were working.
I say again: set alight wooden scaffolding. Welding. Wooden scaffolding. Nope. No fire danger there.
The submarine was partially sunk to extinguish the fire. So Putin can do a reprise of his post-Kursk performance.
But don’t worry. Medvedev has ordered new Deputy PM Rogozin to conduct a thorough investigation. I’ve lost count of how many investigations Medvedev has ordered. I’ve also lost count of how many reports resulting from these investigations have been released, but I think that’s because there haven’t been any to count.
]Speaking of Rogozin, check out his Twitter pic. WTF is he wearing anyways? Can anybody identify his costume? Buck Rogers meets Buck Owens? Or is it Buck Rogers meets Roy Rogers?]
[And speaking of accountability in Russia for transport disasters: the captain of a vessel that steamed by the sinking Bulgaria, leaving passengers to drown, was fined $5000, but retains his captain's license.]
Reuters has a summary of submarine accidents over the past decade plus. The two incidents involving US boats were not due to maintenance or safety issues. One was a navigational error. The other was due to the crew’s failure to take notice of a Japanese fishing vessel while surfacing. The Russian disasters involve fires and explosions and pretty gruesome death tolls. All betray a shambolic submarine force. Shambolic+submarine=don’t go near the water.
Screwup #3 did not involve a bang. Quite the opposite. A woman and five companions managed to waltz into a plant for manufacturing engines for strategic rockets, snapping pictures all the while. Not once, mind you. Five times.
Blogger Lana Sator said she and friends met not a soul, much less any security guards, as they roamed around state rocket-maker Energomash’s plant, snapping pictures, on five separate night-time excursions in recent months.
She posted almost 100 pictures of decrepit-looking hardware from inside a rusted engine-fuel testing tower, the plant’s control room and even its roof at lana-sator.livejournal.com
Russian media cited a senior space agency official, speaking anonymously, who described the breach as a shock of the same scale as German pilot Mathias Rust’s brazen Cessna flight under Soviet radar to land on Red Square in 1987.
“It showed a complete inability to protect anything whatsoever,” the official told Izvestia. Space agency Roskosmos declined comment on the incident when reached by Reuters.
But don’t worry! Rogozin has ordered an investigation! [And don't even think about snapping a photograph in a government office or a polling place or any other random place--like a supermarket, in some cases--unless you want a confrontation and a potential interaction with law enforcement. Priorities, don't you know.]
Methinks that soon Dmitry will pine for the days when all he had to do was vent at NATO and the US, rather than actually, like, you know, do something. Dmitry Gorenburg (at Russian Military Reform–an optimistic title, no?) thinks so too:
These two accidents may serve as an early test for Dmitry Rogozin, the newly appointed Deputy Premier in charge of the defense industry. If he wants to show from the start that he is serious about shaking things up, he may use them as an excuse to push through a major house-cleaning of the industry, parts of which are known to have lax quality control and safety standards. Or he may continue to make strong statements that receive a great deal of media attention with little to no follow through, as he did in his previous position as Russia’s ambassador to NATO.
Good luck with that.
2011 was littered with disasters in Russia. The entire year: it’s not just for August any more. In the air, with several horrific air crashes. In space, with a handful of spectacular launch failures. And, as noted above, on the waters. The Russian disaster triad.
The only real notable success to counter this litany of catastrophes is the Bulava missile, which experienced three successful test launches in the last several months of the year, and is on the verge of being operational. This success, when contrasted with the other disasters, only cements Russia’s reputation as Upper Volta with missiles.
*My mistake, in haste: The Yekaterinburg is an SSBN in US Navy nomenclature (B=ballistic for ballistic missile sub). Interesting that Citizen M had a post on the Robert Amsterdam blog a couple of hours after mine that (a) used the exact phrase “Delta IV class SSN Yekaterinburg”, (b) is titled “Submarine Fire Caps Year of Disasters”–the theme of my post, but (c) doesn’t acknowledge or link to this post. Google “Delta IV class SSN Yekaterinburg” (in quotes) and you get two hits–my post and the RA post. I wonder if Citizen M knows a Delta IV from a Delta faucet: if s/he did, s/he might have corrected my SSN vs. SSBN error.
I appreciate people reading and quoting material from the blog, but links and acknowledgement are the blog-socially correct courtesies. This happens with some frequency (and is not limited to blogs–I’ve had international publications lift material without attribution) and it is just annoying.
Update: Citizen M updated the RA post to include a link and a kind word to SWP. Thanks.