Russian Navy

Three screws

Three screws

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For five years I'd been in the first crew of K-211 heading radio technical service.

The unicity of this sub lies in the fact that it had three screws. Two are on standard place and third one in Chelpushka floating dock – that's a site at granite north near Murmansk. By the way, that dock is only half of German-made dock for battleship Bismarck which was a kind of Nazi Varyag. But that's a riff.

The fact of three screws instead of common two was normally noticed during crew shifts. "Shovels" stumbled upon screw shortage when counting their rusty irons; that could pass peacefully in the north. But at Kamchatka, after transfer to Pacific Fleet, the absence of dozens tonnes of bronze at the sub thrilled many tempered "mechanical" hearts and complicated acceptance procedure. Especially when carelessly explained that the lost screw is at other part of the world.

You ask me what's the matter…?

It was like this.

"On May 23, 1981 the nuclear-powered submarine was returning to base from combat training range. The sub was sailing course 180 at depth of 50 meters on speed of 9.5 knots. The submarine commander Lev Zakharov verified nobody was tracking his sub and at 07.30 pm ordered to measure hydroacoustic noise level. At 07.51 pm the crew of K-211 suddenly felt three 10-second long sequential blows. The commander decided to rise to periscope depth, but then sonarman reported of screw noises on portside course angle 127. He classified underwater target as a nuclear-powered submarine. At 07.58 pm K-211 turned to the right from estimated target and in two minutes the contact with foreign sub was lost. At 08.11 pm the sub surfaced but neither visually nor on the radar screen located any surface targets.

American submarine having rammed Soviet SSBN's afterbody by its conning tower did not surface at collision area. In few days a US sub with apparently damaged conning tower appeared at British naval base Holy Loch.

Thereafter, the investigating board modeled maneuvers of the two subs and inspected damages; the conclusion was that the American submarine was tracking our one hiding in acoustic shadow of stern sectors. As soon as our sub altered course, the Americans lost contact and blindly smashed the Soviet sub's stern by conning tower. K-211 was laid up then and the experts found holes in two aft tanks of main ballast, damages of right screw blades and horizontal fin. In damaged aft tanks they revealed countersunk bolts, pieces of metal and plexiglass remained from American sub's conning tower. Moreover, specific details showed that the collision was exactly with the US Sturgeon-class submarine. Later on that supposition was proved out as damaged sub of this class appeared at Holy Loch."

Bent screw was replaced in dock but wasn't written-off; so, it had being itemized at our sub for a long time.

Author: Sergey Vasilievich
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