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Navy sends fact-finding mission to Moscow

November 25, 2008 18:52 IST
An Indian Navy delegation travelled to Moscow on a fact-finding mission following an accident onboard a Russian nuclear submarine that was to be leased to it, even as shipbuilders blamed the inherent flaws of central control panel of the vessel for the mishap. They also said "serious work" was required to make its fire-extinguishing system "foolproof".

"New modification of 'Molibden' central control panel is under trial on board the Nerpa submarine, for the Indian variant. This is a 'raw' system, which even before had malfunctioned," mechanical engineer of the Amur Shipyard Sergei Stolnikov told popular youth daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.

A high-level delegation led by Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Raman Prem Suthan, is in Moscow on a fact-finding mission as the Akula-II class nuclear attack submarine was to be leased to the Indian Navy next summer.

Stolnikov, who was member of the pre-delivery trial team of the shipyard, 17 technical staff of which were among the casualties caused by the release of fire suppressing toxic Freon gas, believes that the control system was probably "raw", because its developer had died this summer and for three months the system was unattended.

"Just before the sea going trials it was believed to have been put in order: I think, on November 8
the fire safety system was triggered due to malfunctioning of Molibden," he added.

In an interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda, Gennady Bagin, Director of Vostok plant, a unit of Amur Shipyard, said "Molibden-I" (Indian variant), which is a centralised control system of the entire vessel, requires serious improvement, specially its fire-control system and sensors need to be made "foolproof".

A sailor of the crew has been charged with "tampering" the temperature gauge of the fire-control system in the sleeping compartment of the submarine, resulting in the deaths of 20 people and injuries to 21 in the Russian Navy's worst accident since August 2000, when 118 submariners on board the Kursk had died.

"The sensor panels of fire-safety system are not even covered with traditional protective glass, which has to be broken before activating it. Besides this the Central Command post can not see anyone manipulating the sensor panels in the compartments. This is a designer's flaw and needs to be rectified," the shipyard official said.

Vinay Shukla in Moscow