Everything known about the top secret 'Losharik' submarine

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The vessel that caught fire, killing 14 crew members on board, was being used for research and special operations in the deep waters of the Arctic Ocean.

On July 1, 2019, the Russian Navy suffered a tragedy - a fire broke out inside the nuclear powered ‘Losharik' submarine, while traveling through Russian territorial waters of the Arctic Ocean, killing 14 men on board.

According to a Russian Defense Ministry statement, all men died from inhalation of smoke and toxic fumes.

At the moment, the whole picture is still unclear and will be thoroughly investigated under the supervision of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu himself. 

Here we reveal all the known information about the tragedy and what’s known about this secret nuclear submarine and its possible operations in waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Submarine for research and special operations

The ‘Losharik' submarine was launched in 2003 and is Russia’s only submarine designed specifically for research, rescue and special military operations up to 6,000 meters in depth. In comparison, ordinary military submarines can only operate in depths of up to 100-200 meters and are limited to firing projectiles from a depth of 50 meters.

“One of the missions of the Losharik submarine was to monitor the sea shelf, as well as to tap into or sever underwater telecommunication cables that transmit information about military ships’ movements, as well as their intercommunications and information transfers. Yet, Losharik’s main mission these days is extreme depth shelf exploration for potential further mineral extraction,” military analyst Dmitry Safonov told Russia Beyond.

According to him, Russia is working on developing autonomous robotic systems that will enable the extraction of minerals from extreme depths.

‘There are already nuclear powered devices and robots that can operate a couple of thousand meters below the surface without human help’, he said.    

According to him, ’Losharik’ was also used to test other technologies. For example, its crew was among those testing liquid oxygen mixtures that could potentially allow people to breath underwater.

Meanwhile, seven of the victims were first rank captains, while two others were ‘Heroes of the Russian Federation’, as awarded by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

‘This Russian fleet was full of intellectual elite. They conducted missions of top importance. Losing these people is a tragedy. It will take years to develop a new crew of this calibre’, Safonov lamented. 

Submarine’s notable characteristics

The ‘Losharik' is a nuclear powered submarine with an atomic reactor that can operate deep underwater.

It carries zero weapons on board; it’s instead equipped with a claw manipulator and a hydrostatic tube, cameras for monitoring underwater situations, as well as a bedrock cleaning system. 

It has a maximum speed of 30 knots (roughly 34.5 mph or 55 km/h). 

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