Submarine's twin hulls contained fire, reduced losses

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Had it been any other submarine than one of the Sindhughosh or Kilo class that went up in flames late on Tuesday night, the damage at the Mumbai dock would have been massive, potentially devastating for nearby ships as well as buildings that house the Western Naval Command.

When the INS Sindhurakshak — the most modern of the Kilo class in service with India — suffered the explosion, the submarine contained the massive impact within its double hull structure. So massive was the impact that the entire interior of the vessel got sealed due to the heat and pressure generated from at least two explosions that were recorded.

Unlike most conventional submarines that comprise a single pressure hull within which all compartments, systems and quarters are housed, the Russian origin Kilo class had an outer hull as well, designed specifically to withstand blasts. The twin hulls ensured that the impact did not escape the vessel, but came at the cost of the men on board who most likely did not survive the initial blast.

The Navy on Thursday released the names of all personnel on board the Sindhurakshak: Lt Commander Nikhilesh Pal, Lt Commander Alok Kumar, Lt Commander R Venkitraj, Sanjeev Kumar, K C Upadhyay, Timothy Sinha, Kewal Singh, Sunil Kumar, Dasari Prasad, Liju Lawrence, Rajesh Tootika, Amit K Singh, Atul Sharma, Vikas E, Naruttam Deuri, Malay Haldar, Vishnu V and Seetaram Badapall.

Sources said that if a single hull submarine had suffered the explosion that sunk the Sindhurakshak — India's other class of Shishumar is single hulled — the impact would have engulfed surrounding warships and submarines, causing massive casualties. The ruptured hull would have also thrown out the heavy armament load in the warship, causing potential explosions in the surrounding area.

"The Mumbai dock is one of the most congested areas where warships are placed. The large number of ships and submarines in a small place make it very vulnerable to accidents. There is perhaps no other place in the world where warships are docked so close to each other," said an officer. Immediately after the explosions on the submarine, the Navy moved out all its warships from the dock to ensure their safety.

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