Lost in the submarine uproar, the deadline set by Tehran for the EU-3 to support Iranian crude sales expires Sunday…
A thick veil of mystery surrounds the fire that broke out in a state of the art Russian submersible in the Barents Sea, leading to the death of 14 crew members poisoned by toxic fumes.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the submersible was conducting bathymetric measurements, as in examining and mapping deep sea conditions. The crew on board was composed of “unique naval specialists, high-class professionals, who conducted important research of the Earth’s hydrosphere.” Now the – so far unnamed – nuclear-powered vessel is at the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
A serious, comprehensive military investigation is in progress. According to the Kremlin, “the Supreme Commander-in-Chief has all the information, but this data cannot be made public, because this refers to the category of absolutely classified data.”
The submersible is a Losharik. Its Russian code is AS-12 (for “Atomnaya Stantsiya” or “Nuclear Station“). NATO calls it Norsub-5. It’s been in service since 2003. Giant Delta III nuclear submarines, also able to launch ICBMs, have been modified to transport the submersible across the seas.
NATO’s spin is that the AS-12/Norsub-5 is a “spy” sub, and a major “threat” to undersea telecommunication cables, mostly installed by the West. The submersible’s operating depth is 1,000 meters and it may have operated as deep as 2,500 meters in the Arctic Ocean. It may be comparable to, or be something of an advanced version of, the US deep submergence vessel NR-1 (operating depth 910m) famous for being used to search for and recover critical parts of the space shuttle Challenger, lost in 1986.
It’s quite enlightening to place the Losharik within the scope of the latest Pentagon report about Russian strategic intentions. Amid the proverbial demonization terminology – “Russia’s gray zone tactics,” “Russian aggression.” Russian “deep-seated sense of geopolitical insecurity” – the report claims that “Russia is adopting coercive strategies that involve the orchestrated employment of military and nonmilitary means to deter and compel the US,