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Classified Russian submarine surfaces


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The authorities of the town of Sarov, in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod Region, have inadvertently declassified the latest project of a Russian submarine by posting an interview with its commander on their website. The unprecedentedly tight secrecy surrounding the boat suggests we have here a unique experiment by Russian scientists and military officers.


On September 6, Sarov's official site carried a report about a visit to the town by Sarov submarine commander Sergei Kroshkin. The web page mentioned the project number - 20120 - and cited the boat's characteristics. On September 11, the news disappeared from the site, but had already been reprinted in local media.


The secrecy over the new project has caused a surprise - in recent years everything relating to shipbuilding has been widely covered in the media. Officials readily shared with journalists the numbers of projects, names and other particulars.


News broke on Wednesday that the experimental Project 20120 was designed to test a unique technology - installation on a diesel submarine of a nuclear reactor as an auxiliary power plant. Such experiments were staged back in Soviet times.


Several countries are engaged in upgrading their diesel submarines to obtain the same sea endurance as costly nuclear submarines. Germany leads the field here. Since 2000 it has been building Project 212A submarines with non-air breathing engines. These submarines are capable of staying under water for 20 days (common-type Diesel submarines qualify for 4-5 days).


Perhaps Russian scientists have decided to respond to the challenge by reopening their mini-reactor program for diesel boats.


Story No. 2: Project 20120 is a test bed for the latest nuclear reactor of the Afrikantov Experimental Design Bureau of Engineering, which was first mentioned in the media in February 2007. A Nizhny Novgorod Delovaya Gazeta article said that in 2006 the Bureau had "developed a new submarine called Kalitka, which mounted a fundamentally new steam-generating plant, KTP-7I Fenix." It is not ruled out that the enigmatic Project 20120 dates from the no less mysterious Kalitka project.


The Bureau, when asked about the project, showed no surprise. But Yevgeny Kusmartsev, an aide to the concern's director, told a Kommersant correspondent that "submarine reactors are of interest to U.S. intelligence, not you," and suggested the paper seek information from the press service of the Russian Agency for Nuclear Power. The agency, however, declined to comment.

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