Index Home About Blog
From: (Emmanuel Baechler)

I recently found a very interesting book written by three soviet submariners
about the (tragic) story of the soviet nuclear submarines. The authors have
been the commander in chief of the first soviet nuclear sub, the commander
in second and the nuclar engineer. The last one has later become the technical
chief of the northern fleet.

This book is extremely interesting for three reasons. First of all, it
describes the incredible courage of soviet crews, who took the risk to
operate nuclear power plants while they knew that they were defective
(and some of them had criminal defects). The second reason is that it
describes the soviet manufacturing and maintainance system. This
system has never been interested at all by the production of quality
weapons. Metallury was gravely defective, quality criteria were never
respected, and maintainance was frequently neglected, even if this
implied serious danger for the crews.  The authors describes all the
accidents which lead to the loss of nuclear submarines, and they quote
many other ones which were very serious.  All these accidents are
variations on a same theme. They imply errors of the crew, but all of
them impy similar problems in the machinery itself. They have however
never been cured, because this implies major reforms of the soviet
system of military production. Even the most recent subs, like the
Alfa and the Typhoon suffer from the same problems, and to the same
extent. Many people knew that soviet had some quality problems. We
however believed that the military complex was somewhat privilleged.
This books reveals that these quality problems are nightmarish and that
the military complex had, in fact, never been privilleged in this area.

The third (and IMHO most important) point, is that the technical chief
of the northen fleet claims that the quality problems of the soviet
submarines (and other ships) are so grave that they have never been a
serious condender to the US (and royal) navy. He even claims that they
are nothing more than targets for a busy training session for the US
navy. He also claims that the US subs are so good (and the soviet
dections systems so poor) that they are able to travel in the bay of
Kola, as if they were in the Potomac! He adds that the soviet would
never have known it, if, in frebruary 1992, a US SSN tracking a soviet
boomer in the bay of Kola had not touched it accidentally. This touch
left a few pieces with a "US made" mark on them.

He concludes that the soviet military-industral complex had never the
purpose to build an efficient war machine. It's only purpose was too
make money, to get medals and promotions for its leaders. In this
perspective, building good subs, was useless. The only purpose was to
make as much or even more than the planning required, to offer
additional gifts during the visit of to leaders and so on. The fact
that this policy costed several thousand of human lives was irrelevant.
In some sense the whole soviet war machine has been much more a masquerade
than a serious thing.

This book has also several important chapter on evironnmental issues connected
with the soviet naval nuclear power. A very important point is that, to get
this power, the soviet did things which are much worse than Tchernobyl.

Lev Gilstov
Nicolai Mourmoul
Leonid Ossipenko
"La dramatique histoire des sous-marins nucleaires sovietiques"
Robert Laffont, Paris, 1992

Index Home About Blog