Despite the terrible fate of the 118 submariners aboard the Russian Kursk at the bottom of the Barents Sea, I’ve been in the market for ! a submarine. And I don’t mean one of those wimpy, one-man submersibles. Those only come in a dull yellow and are a little stingy with the leg room and breathable air. They’re the Hyundai of submarines — sound, practical, and efficient. They’re the ship of choice among smart, bearded Scripps oceanographers; useful, maybe, for deep-sea assignments, such as the search for the giant squid or the study of hideous fish — the ones with no eyes and whose bodies can withstand googles of pressure per square inch. The submersible is the working man’s submarine. Totally useless for my purposes.
I’ve been looking for a luxury cruiser, something along the lines of a Lexus. Something } a little more gross and indulgent even — a Cutlass Supreme, say. Something with power, space, and the kind of accessories you don’t even | know you need until you see them. Never mind, of course, the power windows and doors. I ! need a huge, wasteful engine. I need a generous captain’s quarters, a classy mess hall, and a state-of-the-art marine toilet. I need chrome detailing, lots of knobs and dials set in a mahogany control panel, and the very best periscope available. And range. I need lots of range. I’m not interested in commuter submarines. I need an attack sub. Something expansive enough for my chronic road rage. Forget flipping the bird or tooting a tiny, bleeping horn. How about four 16/400-caliber torpedoes up your tailpipe?
My search had been frustrating. Consumer Reports had not done its homework. Nothing at eBay. Nothing at the dealers out by the malls. What they had in stock was either too small or too expensive, or else it was the colors — sea-distressed yellow, Navy gray, off-brown. Bath Iron Works and Electric Boat couldn’t customize anything for me within my civilian budget. So imagine my pleasure when I found the Russian Arms Export Catalogue at the Smoking Gun (www.thesmokinggun.com). To be sure, the 96-page directory is not as racy as your typical J. Peterman or Subaru catalog; the text is less clever, the photos a little washed out.
But, my God, what inventory!
Finding itself cash short, Russia, we know, has been selling portions of its huge weapons cache. Rosvoorouzhenie, a state-owned company that negotiates international commerce with merchants in Libya and Iraq, is the broker. For some reason, the catalog doesn’t list prices, but I’ve learned that the sales team at Rosvoorouzhenie rates very high in customer service.
And there they were, right at the beginning of the brochure.
The AMUR Class Diesel-Electric submarines; the 550, the 750, the 950, the 1450, the 1650, and the tip-top sub on the open market today, the 1850. More than I need, maybe, but a bargain at half the price. I’m sure. Plus, if the Ford Expedition is cool, then the AMUR 1850 should turn some heads.
“The AMUR class,” we’re told, “were designed to engage adversary submarines and surface warships” and “to protect friendly naval bases, sea coasts and lanes, and to accomplish reconnaissance missions. Their highly efficient sonar and low inherent acoustic signature ensure early detection of warships.” And look at these options: multipurpose torpedoes, auto torpedo loading, antisubmarine rockets, cruise missiles, and mines. But it’s the specifications that say “Russia.” Its dimensions are impressive, a luxury-filled frame of 68 x 7.2 x 8.2 meters that displaces 2600 tons of water. If she’s maintained properly, she’ll do an easy 22 knots underwater, will dive to a maximum depth of250 meters, and will range 500 miles (submerged) and 6000 miles (dieseling) between fill-ups. But it’s the six torpedo tubes (16/533 caliber) that really separate the AMUR 1850 from all others in her class.
What’s more, to compensate for a modest maintenance program, Rosvoorouzhenie is offering rebates on the BESTER Underwater Craft, “a transportation and rescue craft made of titanium.” The BESTER is designed to carry out “final explorations of submarine accidents” using the latest in “sonar, periscope, and porthole” technology. And best of all, the craft can be transported by automobile or aircraft, “thus allowing support of wrecked submarines within the shortest possible time.”
But wait, what’s that? An authentic 300-mm 9K58 SMERCH Multiple-Launch Rocket System? Indeed it is. The highly effective SMERCH MLRS is designed to engage missile, artillery, and mortar batteries, to destroy strong points and eliminate strongholds, and to defeat manpower. Convert this sleek eight-wheeler from march to fire position in a mere three minutes. Fire missiles (featuring inflight rotation technology) remotely or from the comfort of a special cabin mounted on the vehicle. The SMERCH is just the thing for a country attempting to obliterate the capital of a breakaway republic or trying to divert its people’s minds from submarines.