On Saturday, leaders of the Russian fleet spoke at a ceremony honoring the 14 Russian officers who died last Monday on the nuclear-powered AS-12 Losharik and said the sailors had averted a “planetary catastrophe,” according to openmedia.io.
Open Media reported that one high-ranking military official stated, “Today we are escorting the crew of a research deep-water apparatus, who died while performing a combat mission in the cold waters of the Barents Sea. 14 dead, 14 lives. At the cost of their lives, they saved the lives of their comrades, saved the ship, did not allow a planetary catastrophe.
The chief of the military-political department of the Defense Ministry Andrei Kartapolov reportedly added, “Following the stern maritime laws, they hardened the hatch, only real heroes can do that.”
As TIME had reported last week, “Russian media reported it was the country’s most secret submersible, a nuclear-powered vessel designed for sensitive missions at great depths … The fire occurred while the submersible was measuring sea depths in Russia’s territorial waters, the ministry said, adding that the vessel also is used for studying the seabed … Russian news reports said that while the Losharik officially belongs to the Northern Fleet, it answers directly to the Defense Ministry’s Department for Deep-Sea Research, reflecting the high sensitivity of its missions."
USNI News added:
GUGI develops and operates a fleet of specialized submarines that Russia uses for deep sea and Moscow’s most covert operations. The organization reports directly to Russian military intelligence — the GRU — rather than the Russian Navy.. (Losharik is) estimated to carry a crew of about 25 and can dive to thousands of feet below the surface, according to the Military Russia blog. The about 2000-ton boat can travel slung under the belly of a specially modified Delta III nuclear ballistic missile submarine, according to open source intelligence analysts.
The Times noted:
“The Losharik is like a submerged laboratory. It is packed with ocean data-gathering equipment and advanced acoustic systems to spy on foreign submarines and undersea communications cables. The hydrographic data it produces can help forecast what will happen to ice floes, determining when shipping lanes will be ice free.” “The underwater terrain in the Arctic is changing all the time and currents need to be measured. The Losharik is involved in collecting scientific data,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, principal defence analyst for Jane’s information group.
Russia has a history of trouble with its nuclear submarines; in 1986, the Soviet K-219 nuclear submarine had an explosion that killed four of its crew members; in 2000, 118 sailors died on the Kursk submarine. The wreck of the Kursk was taken from the ocean by an international team that aided Russia, as the BBC reported. The nuclear-powered K-159 is still lying at the bottom of the Barents Sea; the K-278 Komsomolets lies at the bottom of the Norwegian Sea. In 2008, as Radio Free Europe noted, “20 Russian sailors and shipyard workers died on the submarine K-152 Nerpa when the fire extinguishing system was activated.”