Accessing Project Azorian and K-129

The otherwise fine review of Project Azorian, the CIA and the raising of the K-129 in the Feb. 4 edition of The Washington Times makes one unfortunate misstatement: Navy Intelligence officers did not pinpoint the location of the lost Soviet submarine (“Bringing the K-129 to the surface,” Books).

As discussed on Page 46 of “Azorian,” it was Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) personnel using acoustic data who determined the location of the K-129 wreckage and provided that information to the Navy.

In May 1968, the Navy took the acoustic data from AFTAC before it could be analyzed to determine why the K-129 was lost. The Navy then compartmentalized the data so that not even Office of Naval Intelligence acoustic analysts could review it.

Consequently, it was not until 2009 - 41 years after the event - that analysis of the AFTAC data obtained from public-domain sources determined that the K-129 was lost because two R-21 missiles fired to fuel-exhaustion within their breached missile tubes.

As discussed in “Azorian,” the 5,000-degree exhaust plume from those missiles vented inside the submarine, killing the crew and causing enormous structural damage that reached as far forward as the first compartment. The Navy made no contribution to locating the K-129 wreck site and delayed identification of the cause of that disaster for 41 years.


Louisville, Ky.

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