Sunday, January 01, 2006

Subs for sale and not the sandwich variety


Taipei Times
January 29, 2005

Russian Submarine U-475.

Russia's navy offers collectors, museums and anyone else its decommissioned diesel-electric subs from the Soviet era.

If you have a couple of hundred thousand US dollars to spare and room for a giant relic of the old East-West confrontation, Russia has just the thing for you: one of its submarines.

Or maybe a less cumbersome World War II Soviet battle tank in your yard might settle one-upmanship scores with the neighbors?

With scores of decommissioned diesel-electric subs from the Soviet era cluttering bays in the Arctic, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific regions, the military has shown itself open to offers to buy warships for reincarnation as museums, cargo ships and tourist attractions.

While Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo stresses there is "no disorderly sale of submarines," individual vessels can even be found for sale on the Internet.

On land, warehouses with vintage armored vehicles and artillery pieces may soon be cleared as the state arms export agency Rosoboronexport explores the possibility of deactivating the items, many of them left from World War II, and selling them to collectors.

"It is an attractive market and we cannot stand aside," Rosoboronexport spokesman Alexander Uzhanov told The Moscow Time newspaper.

"These arms bear the image of our victory, our heroic past. We plan to increase arms sales, so why not use up these reserves as well?" he said.

A T-34 tank of the kind that was instrumental in smashing Adolph Hitler's armies could fetch up to US$20,000, militaria experts believe. But for now, regulations on the sale of weaponry are holding up the plans.

Rekindling memories of the Cold War and generating fresh interest after movies like K-19: The Widowmaker, Soviet submarines have won a new lease of life in Russia and abroad in recent years.

Some still serviceable subs go to foreign navies, but other retired ones may win a reprieve from the scrap heap to thrill the public.

"Look what's surfaced now that Communism's sunk!" reads the advertisement for U-475, a 92m, 1,950-tonnes example that was delivered to Britain in 1994 from Russia's Baltic fleet.

Bought through middlemen by a British businessman for around ?250,000 (US$470,000), the submarine hosts tours, school outings and private parties and was the setting for three films, said museum manager Gary Parkinson.

Many of around 85 old military submarines on display around the world from Stockholm to Sydney came from Soviet shipyards.

Most recently, the 90m Novosibirsky Komsomolets was towed from Arkhangelsk to Moscow to serve as a museum. The sub was retired in 1998 after 18 years of service and lay idle until it underwent a two-year conversion by a Russian ship-building company.

Of course, the fate of old and relatively hazard-free diesel-electric models is of less concern than that of retired nuclear- powered submarines that Russia must safely dispose of at huge cost.

"The submarines lay sunken in shallow water so they were not dismantled," a middleman replied to an e-mail inquiry. "They have practically all their equipment apart from weaponry.

After purchase they will be raised, prepared and transported to the designated place."

But foreign powers needn't think they will glean new insights into Russia's submarine technology if they pick up these or other models.

"All classified equipment is removed [from a vessel] before it is transported; no government will hand over its state secrets, will it?" said a navy spokesman.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home