Staunton, Sept. 13 – The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s ill-starred and only aircraft carrier which may now return to service only in 2023, almost sank in October 2018 when the floating drydock it was in for repairs sank around it. It took on enormous quantities of water, but personnel on board were able to save it, Aleksandr Timokhin says.
What is disturbing, the military analyst says in Voyenno-Promyshlenny kuryer, is that today, almost three years after that near fatal disaster, the military authorities have yet to identify those responsible for what happened, a delay occasioned by the lack of divided responsibility and the unwillingness of those in charge to press forward (vpk-news.ru/articles/63823).
Timokhin reviews the various versions of the accident that the Russian media carried, versions that only increased in number because those responsible for the ship and the drydock failed to release information. Then he focuses on the findings of a Murmansk court hearing in February 2019 (okt--mrm.sudrf.ru/modules.php?name=sud_delo&srv_num=1&name_op=do...).
The court concluded that the automatic systems had worked as they were intended to but that personnel on the drydock and on the ship did not respond quickly enough to prevent the drydock from sinking and the aircraft carrier from being put in grave danger. In short, it found that the problem was with people (and their bureaucracies) rather than machinery.
That may be one of the reasons why the authorities have been so reluctant to pursue the case. Any further investigation could lead to charges of negligence or irresponsibility against those responsible for the drydock and those responsible for the ship and its repairs, Timokhin continues.
Some in the media have suggested that everything that happened because it happened so quickly was the result of either human error or intentional action. That would mean a diversion of some kind. And while there is no direct evidence of that, the military affairs analyst says, until a full accounting is given, “the version of a diversion must remain one of the main ones.”
Getting to the bottom of this is critical because the accident in 2018 casts a shadow not only over the future of the Admiral Kuznetsov but over Russian naval construction more generally. After the accident, many Russian experts called for purchasing a drydock from China or Turkey. But an alternative decision was made.
Instead of buying a readymade drydock, Moscow decided to have one built on site. That decision was made in the hopes of saving time and money. But unless the reasons behind the 2018 accident are clarified and then corrected, there is a great danger that the new drydock may exhibit the same problems – and a new accident may occur.
If such an eventuality should occur, the blame for it would have to fall not on those who may have been directly responsible but on those who refused to investigate the earlier accident because of what it might have shown about the poor state of the navy and naval construction in Russia today.