Wednesday, 14 August 2013

INS Sindhurakshak fire - weird news reporting and distasteful comparisons to Khukri

(Edited to activate links)

This confuses me. It says that 18 sailors on board are feared dead - so the ones on board who were trapped are likely to be the casualties? Or were others killed? I must admit I'm not happy with the comparison to INS Khukri, which went down fighting. What happened on board that submarine was an accident, possibly caused by criminal negligence. It's a different story altogether.

While I would otherwise have said "Rest in Peace" for those who died, that's a hollow thing to wish for - there are enough families and friends grieving for those lost, or for those trapped in the wreck. And they will want answers.
The BBC article claims that the submarine was sent to Russia because of the battery fire in 2010 that killed a sailor. This is significant, because in the link below, the Admiral interviewed said that the battery could have leaked hydrogen while charging and caused the fire -

If it had been the batteries and not the torpedoes, that raises issues of its own. The Kilo-class submarine is not a particularly large submarine, but the batteries are usually located in middle or rear of the submarine. The torpedoes and missiles(which were responsible for the huge fireball witnessed) were all the way up in the front. What caused the fire is connected with the survival of the 18 sailors on board. If it was a battery fire starting further aft that sank the sub, the possibility of their survival is pretty small. If it was a torpedo fire up front, it's good news for anyone in the stern. The sub is in shallow waters, and if any survivors aft have sealed the watertight doors, it's quite possible they're alive and well.

Other sources, which I've not quoted here, say that the submarine lacked an automatic system for getting rid of the hydrogen and needed the crew to take care of the problem manually. Not surprising, since this is an older Kilo-class submarine. The Russians may not have bothered building the required level of automation into an export vessel.
And now this is being characterized as a 'major setback' due to the delays in acquiring conventional submarines.

This accident is highly disturbing - leave aside the usual cries of 'treachery' and 'sabotage', the more likely causes are the technical failure of the submarine itself (either its batteries or its torpedoes) and human error in failing to stop charging and disposing of the excess hydrogen. The Indian Navy can afford neither at this juncture, with the other Kilo-class subs getting old and the Scorpenes being delayed.

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