Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Visit to former military base in Crimea.

When I was going to spend a few days in Crimea I had no idea that even close to the ordinary small village of Chernomorskoye, located on northwest of the peninsula, I will meet something very interesting for the fond of military history. One guy I’ve met by chance on the local beach asked me if I’ve seen the former USSR missile base. In a few minutes I got a full information regarding how to get there. Next day early morning I have entered an area that was a strictly guarded object in the time of Cold war. By 1966, anti-aircraft system S-200 was officially accepted into service instead of outdated missile РZ-25/5В11 “DAL”. The first S-200 operational regiments were deployed in 1966. Each missile is launched by 4 solid-fueled strap-on rocket boosters. After they burn out and drop away (between 3 to 5.1 seconds from launch) it fires a 5D67 liquid fueled sustainer rocket engine. Maximum range is between 150 and 300 km. The missile uses radio illumination mid-course correction. Maximum target speed is around Mach 4. Effective altitude is up to 35,000 m for later models. The warhead is 217 kg high explosive fragmentation triggered by radar proximity fuse or command signal. Some models were equipped with 25 kT nuclear warhead triggered by command signal. Each missile weighs around 7018 kg at takeoff. In the time of the Soviet Union the village of Chernomorskoe was a restricted area. It was a home for the 256th division of missile boats of Black Sea Fleet. After disintegration of the USSR this division was inherited by independent Ukraine and in 2000 it was disbanded. A few boats were shifted to Sevastopol. Another military unit deployed in Chernomorskoe until 1990s was anti-aircraft defense regiment equipped with S-200 anti-aircraft system. Now the site of the former military base is unattended. local authorities do not care any recreation of this area full of pads made of few meter thick reinforced concrete and well protected shelters for the launchers and missiles. Some inhabitants hold that this area could be seriously polluted with rocket propellant or radioactive dust. Any way, nowadays the former military base looks rather sinister. A few cases of mistaken lock-in cased by failure in board electronic equipment of S-200 have been recorded since it has been accepted into service. On October 4th 2001 a Ukrainian missile S-200 fired during military exercises destroyed the Russian civil aircraft Tu-154 flying from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk. Sixty-six passengers and 12 crew members were killed in the crash.