The explosion on board the Kilo-class Russian submarine with the Indian Navy, Sindhurakshak, in Mumbai last evening, according to a veteran submariner, was due to fire in the forward weapons section of the boat carrying the Klub-S anti-ship missile and a land attack missile launchable from torpedo tubes. The villain may be faulty weapons engineering or, more likely, the highly unstable and combustible missile fuel that caught fire, igniting a larger explosion in the weapons hold that ripped through the submarine and sank it with 18 crewmen on board at the time. It could have been lot worse. The explosion could have happened at sea, with the boat underway on patrol. The naval source couldn’t hazard a guess as to why it happened, saying it shouldn’t have, and there’s no obvious reason for it.
This is speculation on my part but it is possible a small leak of the fuel in the proximity of an electric shortcircuit or some other small fire, blew up into an uncontrollable conflagration. Considering the vessel had just returned after an expensive Rs 480 crore refit in a Russian shipyard, this incident is even more puzzling. After all, such a refit would have involved a thorough going over to identify wear and tear and rectification. This only
makes the event curiouser, and calls to mind the devastating fire, again in the weapons hold, of the Russian nuclear attack submarine, Kursk, in July 2000.
Necessarily, all Kilos will have to be called in and “benched”as it were, until expert diagnosis pinpoints the source of trouble, or the shortfalls in this submarine’s refit program. Until then, the navy’s sea denial capability will be considerably thinned out in the Indian Ocean. Damn!