Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why Did "Rostov-na-Donu" Return to the Baltic Sea?

Screenshot of Ilya Kurganov blog posting -- October 29, 2015

Very early this morning, St. Petersburg blogger Ilya Kurganov (citing unnamed "navy officials") reported that Kilo-class submarine "Rostov-na-Donu" had arrived in Kronshtadt for unscheduled repairs of its electrical plant. According to the blogger:

" began its scheduled transfer to its home port of Novorossiysk on October 16, 2015, but within literally a few days it was necessary to call for a rescue tug, with which it headed to a location where unscheduled repairs will be performed by technicians from Admiralty Shipyards, where the submarine was built."

Interfax, citing an unknown source in the shipbuilding industry, confirmed that the submarine is in the Baltic Sea, but the source would only say that "it was forced to return to the Baltic for technical reasons." Finally, Admiralty Shipyards denied that any Russian Navy officials had contacted the shipyard to provide any technical assistance to the submarine.

Taking a closer look at the Ilya's blog post, we see:

  • The submarine was not in Kronshtadt when the blog posting was published. "Rostov-na-Donu" and the rescue tug, "SB-406", did not arrive in Kronshtadt until 11:50 this morning (local time), nearly 11 hours after the blog posting was published.
  • It was towed to Kronshtadt instead of Admiralty Shipyards, which is located less than 20 miles from Kronshtadt. Why would shipyard technicians have to travel to Kronshtadt to repair the submarine when the submarine could be repaired more easily at the shipyard where it was built? Vietnamese Navy Kilo submarine "Da Nang" left the shipyard yesterday, so there is plenty of room to accommodate "Rostov-na-Donu".
  • If this happened "within literally a few days" of its October 16 departure from Polyarnyy, why was it not towed back to Polyarnyy vice towing it to Kronshtadt - and, again, not even the shipyard that built it? Why risk any other mechanical failures over the course of another week or so of transit time?

In summary, Ilya's reporting doesn't add up, and it's hard to tell who's to blame: Ilya, his sources, or both.

Minutes before the submarine and tug moored in Kronshtadt, a Ministry of Defense official told Interfax that the purpose of the submarine's visit to Kronshtadt was to take on supplies. That makes little sense as the first Kilo submarine to transfer to the Black Sea this year, "Novorossiysk", was able to make it all the way from Polyarnyy to Ceuta, Spain, before having to take on fresh supplies.

This has all the appearance of a public affairs failure that has been noted before. Earlier this year, the Western Military District press service tried, but failed to cover up an actual emergency on board Steregushchiy-class frigate "Steregushchiy" during at-sea training. And military officials have yet to officially discuss what happened on board Delta IV-class ballistic missile submarine "Bryansk" in July 2015 when a crew member drowned in the submarine's sail.