Fire in Russian Submarine kills 14

In a fire abroad a secret deep-sea research submarine which many identify (though not confirmed by the Russian Government) as the AS-12 Losharisk has killed 14 servicemen of the Russian Navy. Though details of the accident are not clear, experience seamen have attributed the cause of the fire to either a flammable liquid getting into the ventilation system or a short circuit in the ship’s electrical systems. Most of the dead are senior ranking Russian Navy Officers with at least 7 of them holding the rank “Captain” and at least two of them had been awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation, Russia’s highest military honor.

The operational details of the submarine are sketchy but it was involved in deep-sea exploration and had a unique job profile.

Why is this important?

  • The AS-12 is an advanced deep-sea submarine powered by nuclear energy.
  • It is made of titanium which allows it to reach great depths (far beyond the capabilities of any other conventional submarine).
  • The Russians are using this submarine to mark areas of the continental shelf as parts of Russian landmass in the Arctic.
  • This will allow the Russians to lay claim to the enormous amounts of natural resources primarily hydrocarbons in the Arctic region.
  • The Russian claim is being contested by the Americans and the other Arctic nations.

Instances in the Past

Russia has had a dubious history of multiple accidents involving its submarines. In 2000, Russian submarine, the Kursk, exploded and sank in the Arctic killing 118 Russian sailors. In 2008, another Russian submarine the Nerpa (K-152) suffered another accident in the Sea of Japan, killing 20 people. The accident was similar to what has happened with the AS-12.

The Nerpa is now serving in the Indian Navy as INS Chakra on a 10-year lease.