Note on Sources: Additional information concerning the Kursk disaster and the current state of the Russian military has been obtained from Jane's Intelligence Weekly, Jane's Defense Weekly, CNN, MSNBC, and other major network news outlets. Sources inside the U.S. Navy ASW community were also asked for input on this subject. This is mainly intended as an additional amplification to subjects touched on in The Custodian's Dangerous Bullshit Political Maneuvers.
The Problem of International Assistance:
The U.S. Navy offered the services of the DSRV Avalon based at NAS North Island, San Diego CA. to the Russian Navy. However, the offer was repeatedly rejected by both Russian Foreign Ministry officials and members of the Russian Navy coordinating the rescue efforts. This caused considerable and somewhat pointless debate by the mass media establishments in the U.S. and several other parts of the world as to why the offer was rejected. Plain and simple, the Russians and the United States are the only two competitors in the world at the moment in terms of modern submarine technology, with the British and Chinese coming in tied at second. The ability of an American DSRV to get close enough to take extensive photographs of an Oscar class attack submarine would prove to be a major coup for the U.S. intelligence community. The Russian intelligence community was and still is of course aware of this. The British offer of assistance was taken instead, provided that the rescue vehicle provided was staffed by Swedish personnel who would be coming with the ship dispatched by the same country. This allowed the Russian military and Russian Navy to carefully monitor what was shown to the general public in terms of footage taken by the dive crews, despite the release of pictures showing the extent of damage to the hull and so forth.
Collision With Surface Target Versus Submerged Target as Accident Source:
Damage shown widely on national television obtained from the Swedish dive crew and through TASS, (the Russian national news agency,) clearly shows the following.
1. Extensive catastrophic damage to the sonar dome and top right side of forward hull, extending to the conning tower on Kursk.
2. Deployment of periscopes and UHF/VHF radio antennae from the conning tower.
3. Damage to conning tower consistent with that which would be created by an impact with either a stationary or mobile object.
4. Non-deployment of emergency transmitters carried by Kursk for use in the event of an abandoning of the ship.
The obvious conclusion being drawn is that there is no possible way the Kursk could have collided with a submerged target. Collision with one of the Udaloy class guided missile cruisers operating in the area or a larger class surface combatant seems the most likely demise of the Kursk. Again an impact with an off course medium to large surface merchant could have caused the accident. Given the silence by the Russian Navy concerning damage to their own ships this is a possibility. Additionally, sonar data gathered at the time of the accident shows information consistent with the sinking of one submarine. The deployment of the radio antenna mast and periscope from the conning tower is particularly damning, as the Kursk, (and any other submarine,) would only deploy these close to the surface. Again, damage to the hull clearly indicates an oncoming collision with something above and to the right of the Kursk's track at the time of the accident.
However the single most damning fact in the argument for a collision with another submarine comes directly on the heels of the amount of damage suffered to the submarine. If the Kursk was laid open from sonar dome to conning tower as rescue video indicates, what of the vessel that she collided with? Surface ships, (non-combatant,) are designed with this sort of collision survivability in mind. Warships, especially ASW and multi-role platforms similar to the U.S. Perry class frigate and Arleigh Burke destroyers invariably locate fixed omni-directional sonar arrays at the front of the vessel. (Usually in the form of a lozenge shape blended into the corner at which the bow and the keel meet.) Damage to such an array would be extremely expensive, significant, and very difficult to repair. Satellite coverage of Russian Naval yard activity would reveal such repairs in progress, as the ship would be in a dry dock for some time.
U.S. Involvement in the Accident:
Upon inquiring with sources in the U.S. Navy's ASW community concerning the possible involvement of a U.S. asset as either the cause of or contributing factor to the Kursk accident the following unofficial statement was made:
"No way. If we did that we'd know. Unless this is some of that hokey cold war shit, which I don't think it is, there's no way. No sub skipper would be stupid enough to put his boat into the middle of a Russian exercise. At least I hope they wouldn't be that dumb. If they don't know where their own guys are, and you go sneaking around in all that? Fuck all that, man."
Public Release of Classified Information:
Invariably the public release of classified information is not to be made by any facet of the U.S. military or intelligence services. 'Need to Know' provides a check and balance within the system to prevent wide dissemination of material to inappropriate areas and personnel. In other words although an individual may be cleared to a specific level they may not have or provide justification sufficiently demonstrative of 'Need to Know.' Therefore although access to materials such as the full spectrum of information gathered by listening posts operated by the U.S. and it's allies may well be within the security range of a member of the House or Senate, this information may not lie within the purview of their duties and access will be denied.
Representative Weldon's claims of conspiracy and collusion on the part of the U.S. House and Senate Intelligence committees are simply that: claims. The attempts on his part in respect to need to know and proper security clearance although well intentioned are unnecessary and apparently designed to do nothing more than create election year hysteria.
The Future and Lessons Learned from the Kursk Disaster:
For starters, the Russian military at the time of the Kursk disaster was on maneuvers of a scale not witnessed since the fall of Soviet Communism. Since taking office, Vladimir Putin has made strong statements concerning the status of the flagging Russian military. Policy appears to be coming into effect that would put the Russian armed forces on a path that would eventually lead them to strength levels equivalent to those of the Cold War Era. Russian Naval forces have not operated in a 'blue water' (meaning extensive operations in international waters,) environment since the end of the Cold War. Already since Putin was sworn in as president, submarines from the former Soviet nation have engaged in behaviors not seen since the height of Communist power in Russia.
The Russian navy at the moment is still trying to find the legs that it once had and unfortunately, poor training, mediocre material condition and equipment malfunction may have played a significant contributing factor to the death of the Kursk crew. More unfortunate than that is the indicator that the Kursk disaster is of the state of the Russian Navy. As a former super power attempting to regain status in the world military community, the Russian navy has certainly done nothing for international confidence with the Kursk.
It is not to be expected that U.S. findings or source material on which future reports released by the U.S. government concerning the Kursk disaster will be made public. Unfortunately it appears that Representative Weldon is in for an approximately fifty year wait to have his answers.
Opinion on the Kursk disaster:
Another anonymous source from the U.S. ASW community had this to say of the incident:
"It sucks those guys died, I feel sorry for them and their families. I dunno how I'd feel going like that. It really does suck. The bright side is its one less goddamn Oscar to worry about."