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Russian Nuclear Submarine Stranded on Ocean FloorAired August 14, 2000 - 1:54 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue to follow the story of the Russian nuclear submarine that has sank in the Barents Sea. It's in 350 feet of water, 107 people on board. Russia saying that chance for rescue isn't looking good, and they are not exactly saying why. We do know that this submarine has had serious collision damage. And we have been talking to someone from "Jane's Defence Weekly," an expert; we have another expert on the line with us, and he is best- selling author Tom Clancy.
And in your research on best-sellers, you know a lot about all things military. Mr. Clancy, thank you for joining us this afternoon.
TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR: Hello. I don't know if I qualify as an expert, but I can tell you what I know.
ALLEN: Tell us what you know about the submarine, and also what you have learned over the years about Russia and its record with submarine safety?
CLANCY: Well, you know, the Russian record is not as good as ours. They have had a few instances, but, then, most countries that have submarines have had such instances because submarines are -- They can be dangerous and demanding craft to operate in a safe manner.
Reportedly the ship was involved in a ramming, exactly, you know, the nature of the ramming is not known to me, but that -- there's an old saying in the U.S. Navy that a collision sure can ruin your whole day.
And sure enough, it's not a good thing to have happen in a submarine, because submarines lack something that surface ships have in abundance, and that's called "reserve buoyancy," which is a simply way of -- a technical way of saying a submarine needs a of air inside the hull to stay afloat and they don't have enough as much air inside the hull as a surface ship does.
ALLEN: What is it sounding to you as far as the reasons that the -- that Russia might not be making an announcement on a rescue? What would be the chances of a rescue if there were catastrophic damage to this submarine.
CLANCY: Well, it depends. Again, you know, it's hard to comment and tell something when you don't have very much in the way of information. ALLEN: The ship was rammed, water entered the hull, and the ship went down. The ship is now sitting on the bottom. Presumably, not everybody was -- has been drowned: They were able to close off the hatches on the internal compartments so -- so that, you know, some of the people spaces remain unflooded and therefore can be occupied by people safely.
So what you want to do is get a rescue vessel down to them, something like the American DSRV, the deep submergence rescue vehicle, which, if it could be taken to the site of the incident, could probably help these guys, because the DSRV skirt, I'm informed, will fit a Russian submarine.
ALLEN: So it fits onto the submarine, so they board the U.S. vessel.
CLANCY: DSRV, assuming there's a hatch close to where these guys are, which is not a given, because, you know, there's not a hatch in every compartment. U.S. Navy submarine have, for example, have -- let's see -- the torpedo-loading hatch forward and two -- two hatches aft.
Now, there are, you know, wildcards here. Some -- one Soviet submarine, the Mite (ph) class that went down off (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about 10 or 12 years ago, actually had a separate -- a compartment which could separate itself from the ship and act as sort of a lifeboat for the crew, a dedicated rescue compartment. Whether or not the Oscar has this, I don't know. I rather suspect not, because they haven't made use of it to this point. But that has been designed into some Soviet submarines.
ALLEN: How different is this submarine from the sub you wrote about in your book in "The Hunt for Red October"?
CLANCY: Well, it's a different type of sub. It's an SSGN. It shoots cruise missiles rather than ballistic missiles. Aside from that, it's a large steel artifact you fill -- that carries weapons and people and two nuclear reactors and goes underwater. In that sense, they're similar. In the narrow technical sense, they're very different, but for the purposes of this conversation they might as well be identical.
ALLEN: And what does it feel like to be on one, Mr. Clancy?
CLANCY: I've never been underwater in a -- I've been aboard submarines but I've never been underwater in one. I personally find the sense of confinement a little oppressive. But the kids who go into submarines do so at a relatively young age and therefore make the adaptation fairly easily.
ALLEN: And what do you think about this one report that are two escape trunks that these men could -- it's considered extremely difficult -- but swim out of that submarine.
CLANCY: That's possible, and we train our people to do that. At the submarine base at New London, Connecticut, there's a large tower there, and that's the tower where they practice those escapes. Whether or not -- whether or not, they're too deep to perform that maneuver, I do not know.
ALLEN: Tom Clancy, we thank you for talking with us about this today. Thanks so much.
CLANCY: Very well, see you.
ALLEN: We will have the latest on the situation with the Russian submarine in just a few minutes.
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