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US declassified salvage operation of Soviet sub K-129

US declassified salvage operation of Soviet sub K-129 15.02.2010
CIA declassified secret salvage operation of Soviet submarine K-129.

Project 629A diesel-electric submarine K-129 of Soviet Pacific Fleet sank in 1968 northwest of Hawaii in unclear circumstances. On board the sub were three R-21 ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

American intelligence has not promulgated even the minutest particulars of so called Project Azorian (erroneously called Project Jennifer by press) lifting of K-129 sub in 1974. Industrial tycoon Howard Hughes sponsored for the operation about $1.5 bln in today's money.

However, U.S. National Security Archive sent a request based on Freedom of Information Act and consequently CIA issued a report last Friday which illuminates those events but does not disclose all secrets of Project Azorian though.

In particular, the 50-page report published in 1985 in CIA in-house journal says that the US President Richard Nixon with intention to gain samples of Soviet nuclear weapon and cryptographic equipment made a decision to lift K-129 despite advices of top-ranking military chiefs and the fact that the sub was laying at the depth of 5,000 meters.

Even enormous cost of operation and anxiety of worsening relations with the USSR did not make Nixon to wash out his plan. In shortest term a special vessel Hughes Glomar Explorer was launched. To conceal the real purpose of the platform, it was built as a drilling vessel and named after manufacturer Howard Hughes.

Hughes Glomar Explorer was permanently in the spotlight of Soviet ships and helicopters. Being afraid that the Soviets would try to storm the vessel, the crew blocked heliport of Hughes Glomar Explorer with crates, says the CIA report.

With military honors the Americans buried at sea bodies of six Soviet submariners found inside the sunken K-129 and took away submarine wreckage. It is uncertain what exactly fragments were taken, what were the results of study and whether the project recovered its budget. According to Lockheed's engineer who took part in the operation, they could not lift either missiles or cryptographic hardware with codebooks which might be useful for intelligence; they only managed to pick up two torpedoes with nuclear warheads.

The report says Project Azorian provided the U.S. with "incorporeal benefits" strengthening morale of intelligence officers and improvement in lifting techniques of submerged heavy wreckage.

"Lifting a 1,750-ton sub from 5-km depth had never been carried out before. Government or authority which is frightened of undertaking responsibility for foreseeable risks while pursuing an objective would not be true both to themselves and people they serve for", says the reporter.

From the viewpoint of historians and journalists, this statement is a bureaucratic excuse of another not-worth-powder-and-shot expensive venture, summarizes FOX News.

Source: RusNavy.com, photo: Hughes Glomar Explorer at California on Aug 29, 1975 (AP)

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