K-129 and Project AZORIAN
In March or April 1968 the "K-129" submarine sank in the northern Pacific Ocean (1390 kms northwest of Oahu harbor). According to the official version of the Soviet Navy, the submarine exceeded its maximum depth and came to rest on the ocean bottom at a depth of over 5 km. The collapse of the hull was detected by the American SOSUS acoustic system, and in July 1974 parts of the submarine were recovered.
On 11 March 1968 [other sources report April], the K-129 sank in the northern Pacific Ocean in 16,400 feet of water, about 1,600 nautical miles northwest of Hawai'i. Undwerway on diesel, K-129 project 629 sank with the loss of three R-21 missiles with 1 Mt nuclear warheads. It was the first strategic-missile submarine to have been lost. The Soviet government told the crewmen’s families only that they had drowned accidentally and did not allow their names to be published for more than 25 years.
The causes of this disaster are unclear until now. The K-129 probably sank because the rocket engines in two of its missiles ignited sequentially for unknown reasons and burned for more than three minutes over a six-minute time span. The exhaust plumes would have burned into the pressure hull and, with their extremely high temperatures and poisonous fumes, quickly killed all the crew. The misfirings occurred while the submarine was near the surface, with its internal compartments open for ventilation. After part of its sail structure tore away and its bottom was breached, it began to flood and then sank. Multiple highly improbable failures occurred in succession, finding a pathway to disaster which designers never considered, and provided no safety cut-out to prevent. However, the Soviet military experts consider the most likely cause of death of K-129 unintentional blow by an American submarine.
One of the most persistent errors was misnaming the project JENNIFER (the codename for its security procedures) rather than AZORIAN. John Prados compounds the error by saying that the overall project name Jennifer was later changed to Zodiac. Such reportings devolved over the years, as ignorance gradually was replaced by unsupported theories, wild speculation, and finally by absolute nonsense.
The submarine potentially had substantial intelligence value, but the odds against retrieving it seemed insurmountable. Soviet ships started coming to the search area two weeks after the Glomar got there. The first was a missile range instrumentation ship, the Chazhma, whose crew took photographs from on deck and from a helicopter circling above the Glomar. The two ships exchanged messages, and the Chazhma left four days later. A Soviet naval tug, the SB-10, was more persistent, staying for nearly two weeks and coming as close as 200 yards.
In July 1974, part of K-129 was raised in the course of the project "Jennifer" Hughes "commissioned by the CIA. Information about whether the hands of Americans Russian nuclear warheads, quite contradictory. However, their design (if it really happened) hardly had a significant impact on the progress of u.s. nuclear weapons.
The capture vehicle had been pulled up over 6,700 feet when two of its grabber arms snapped, causing nearly 100 feet of the retrieved front section of the K-129 to break away and fall through the gap created. Back to the ocean floor went the missile, its fire control system, and possibly some cryptographic equipment — one of the most coveted prizes in the whole operation. The CIA Project "Azorian" cost American tax payers about $1.4 billion (2010 dollars), spent between 1968 - 1975.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|