Submarines: Akula On Fire

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November 13, 2006: On November 2nd, a Russian Akula (Bars, in Russian) nuclear attack submarine caught fire while undergoing refurbishment in a north (Arctic) coast shipyard. The sub did not have any nuclear fuel aboard. The fire started when a welder's torch ignited some rags, which quickly spread to temporary wood planking, laid down to protect the compartment floor during reconstruction. The fire spread quickly, and the workers fled. The compartment was no longer airtight, because of the construction work, so sealing it off did not work. Eventually water and foam had to be used. Several firemen were injured from toxic fumes, created when the fire reached plastic material in open cable conduits.

The Akulas are large boats, displacing about 10,000 tons on the surface, and carry twelve Granat (SS-N-21) cruise missiles, which have a 3,000 kilometer range and usually contain a nuclear warhead. It is a recent design, and one of the quietist in the Russian fleet. The damaged boat, the K-317 "Panther", previously had a captain who received an award for staying on the tail of a U.S. SSBN for 150 hours straight in the late 1990s. The K-317 has been in service for fifteen years.

 


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