INS Sindhurakshak: An accident or sabotage?

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Mumbai, Aug 16: In the current scene of the incidents between the Indian and the Pakistani warring heads, a probability of sabotage cannot be ruled out. At least that is what the veteran submariners believe.

In a report by TOI, they insist that the Board of Inquiry, chaired by a senior officer from the Submarine Wing porbed the sabotage angle thoroughly. Though there are clear indications that it was an accident, the fact that it was preparing for a war patrol with armed torpedoes and cruise missile close to the Pakistani shores raise doubts.

Sindhurakshak: Experts smell foul play

With the hydrogen gas leak theory emerging as the prime reason behind the explosion, experts believe that it is next to impossible for such a thing to have happened. Explaining why, they say that warheads of the torpedoes and missiles have several layers of in-built security features to avoid inadvertent blasts.

Dean Matthew, who was a guided specialist and a former Navy Commander and research fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), said,"The warheads, whether heavy torpedo warheads or relatively smaller missile warheads, are designed with highest levels of inbuilt safety. These multi-layered measures added together ensure almost foolproof levels of safety."

And advanced vessels like Sindhurakshak have remote chances of such a situation because there are safety measures that can handle minor leakage and temperature rise.

The Indicators:

Navy and submarine experts are now diverting their focus on the following points:

1. A "cook off" is impossible: A situation where the warheads are exploding due to high temperature is impossible as Sindhurakshak has sprinklers installed in the torpedo bay that trigger in case of temperature rise.

"So this should have worked if there was a fire in the battery compartment beneath and the temperature was shooting up in the torpedo bay above," a veteran said.

Moreover, for a TNT, which is the main explosive material in a torpedo, just high temperature is not enough for an explosion, unless it has expired and has an unstable chemical structure.

2. Warheads triggered the second explosion: The hydrogen gas leak theory could be applicable for the first explosion, which was smaller as compared to the second one. Interestingly, the second explosion was due to a missile or a torpedo triggering off.

A former officer opines,"The fact that these explosions ruptured the hulls of the submarine and sank it strongly points to the warheads exploding as they are meant to do exactly the same when used against an enemy submarine or ship."

However, the warheads behaving erratically is a remote possibility, unless of course a human element is involved. Note these:

3. A submarine on a war patrol, with heavy artillery onboard, has the exploder unit and the warhead placed separately. They can be launched only when they are assembled under strict orders to arm the torpedo during war situation. Otherwise, the exploder unit is never mated with the torpedo in the harbour, when the vessel is patrolling for a patrol.

4. The advanced safety measures of the submarine does not allow explosion even when the exploder unit is assembled. In fact, it gets active only when the is launched from the submarine and has travelled out a safe distance away from the submarine.

That is not all, Sindhurakshak has many more levels of inbuilt safety nets that ensure that the warheads do not get launched inside the vessel. And when onboard, the safety and arming unit is on strict vigilance to ensure that the warhead is not ready for explosion, unless the missile is powered, launched and travels a safe distance away.

And this can be done only when the submarine's combat information console feeds in the information in the missile.

The last three factors are the prime indicators that there might be the presence of a human element behind the explosion. Officers further argue that if we go by the hydrogen leak theory, why was there no severity in the 2010 incident where one sailor lost his life.

Similarly in Sindhuvijay, just one officer got injured. "Triggering a warhead is not easy; it requires human intelligence," said a former officer.

Clearly, there are several gaps in the cause of the accident, but the haze seems to get clear after a perfect explanation of what a submarine is and how is it structured. So, has INS Sindhurakshak, one of the most advanced vessels in Indian Navy, really been sabotaged? is a question which only time can tell.

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