A video that first surfaced on Twitter and has since made the rounds on social media, appears to show a moored Russian Kilo-class attack submarine’s stern-engulfed in thick, black smoke.
The striking footage was filmed in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok, facing the Golden Horn Bay, near the borders with China and North Korea. The port of Vladivostok happens to be the home port of the Russian Pacific fleet and the most significant Russian port on the Pacific Ocean.
Shortly after the videos were uploaded to social media, the Russian Navy swiftly came out calling the fire part of a “damage control exercise.” Russia’s news outlet TASS quoted the Russian Navy as stating:
“Exercises to extinguish a fire on the pier using imitation were conducted on the territory of the connection of the Pacific Fleet submarines among personnel.” The contingent fire was eliminated in six minutes. “The personnel coped with the” excellent .”
Another report from Interfax News states that the Russian military has denied reports of a fire on the submarine base in Vladivostok.
Военные опровергли сообщения о пожаре на базе подлодок во Владивостоке https://t.co/gpVYHzh39f— Интерфакс (@interfax_news) January 21, 2018
Five submarines and a dozen Russian naval ships are seen moored in close quarters to the high-volume, ultradense, thick, black smoke spewing from around the stern of the submarine.
Black fires can reach temperatures of more than 1,000°F. Material Safety Data Sheet published by ConocoPhillips shows the flashpoint of diesel fuel is between 125 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which indicates the fire in the video could indeed provide a hot enough flashpoint to ignite petroleum or diesel.
Why mention diesel flashpoints? Because diesel-electric motors drive the Kilo-class attack submarine’s propulsion system. From the angle of the video, the position of the fire is around or within the stern of the sub, where the propulsion drive systems are located.
A view of the incident from across the harbor:
Another vantage point of the incident from across the harbor: if indeed an exercise, where are the support teams to control the situation?
According to Popular Mechanics, the Kilo-class attack submarine has a history of technical difficulties.
In 2013, the Indian submarine INS Sindhurakshak caught fire and sank portside in Mumbai. A fire in the forward weapons bay triggered explosions of torpedoes and cruise missile warheads in the fully stocked bay. The accident killed eighteen sailors and rendered the ship unrecoverable, and it was finally stricken from Indian Navy rolls in 2017.
The incident in Vladivostok has gained so much internet notoriety in the past few days, it has prompted the Russian military to officially deny it and call it a “damage control exercise", which of course is the fastest way to confirm it happened. Because if the billowing black smoke was "planned", we would hate to see what an out of control submarine incident would look like.