A fire on one of the Russian navy's deep-sea submersibles killed 14 sailors, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday without giving the cause of the blaze or saying if there were survivors. The ministry didn't name the vessel that caught fire Monday, but Russian media reported it was Russia's most secret submarine, a nuclear-powered vessel called the AS-12 Losharik that is designed for sensitive missions at great ocean depths. The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the fire broke out while the submersible was measuring sea depths in Russia's territorial waters and the vessel had since arrived at the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base of Russia's Northern Fleet. An investigation is underway, reports the AP, which notes it's the deadliest Russian naval incident since 2008.
The ministry said the fire was put out thanks to the self-sacrifice of crew members but didn't say what is thought to have started it or how many people were on board. The Losharik, which entered service in 2010, is the most advanced and most obscure Russian submarine. It's named after a Soviet-era cartoon character, a toy horse made of small spheres. The name is apparently explained by the unique design of its internal hull, which is made of several titanium spheres capable of withstanding high pressure at great depths. In 2012, the Losharik collected samples from a depth of 8,202 feet; regular submarines can typically dive to depths of up to 2,000 feet. Analysts suggested that one of its possible missions could be disrupting communication cables on the ocean bed.
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