Former US Navy Submariner explains why K-314 Captain was at fault when his submarine rammed USS Kitty Hawk

When Russian Nuclear Submarine K-314 Rammed USS Kitty Hawk the Americans blamed the Sub Captain for the incident and the Soviets concurred

By Dario Leone
Apr 25 2023
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K-314 Captain Vladimir Evseenko did not agree since the incident had caused no loss of life or the submarine itself. “We even managed to kick out the ‘enemy’ for a long time,” he pointed out.

On Mar. 21, 1984, while US Navy Battle Group Bravo sailed southerly courses toward the Tsushima Strait into the Yellow Sea during Exercise Team Spirit 84-1, Soviet submarine K-314, a Victor I-class attack boat, collided with USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) aircraft carrier while surfacing.

According to Naval History and Heritage Command, the collision occurred at 2207, about 150 miles east of Pohang, South Korea, in the Sea of Japan, near 37º3’N, 131º54’E. Captain David N. Rogers, on the bridge, felt a “noticeable shudder, a fairly violent shudder,” and he and the starboard lookout saw the outline of the sub’s sail moving away from Kitty Hawk, the sub failing to display navigation lights.

RADM Richard M. Dunleavy, Director, Carrier (CV) and Air Stations Program, later noted that during the previous three days, the sub was detected by helos launched from Battle Group Bravo “and killed more than 15 times,” the Victor I initially being sighted on the surface 50 nautical miles ahead of the carrier’s intended course before submerging, on Mar. 19.

Then on Mar. 21, K-314 rose to a depth of just 10 meters after having lost track of USS Kitty Hawk due to bad weather.

Through the periscope, Captain Vladimir Evseenko discovered that the entire USS Kitty Hawk CSG was only 4 to 5 kilometers away. More alarmingly still, the Americans and K-314 were heading towards each other at full throttle.

K-314
K-314 after having rammed USS Kitty Hawk

Evseenko gave an immediate order to submerge, but it was too late. K-314 and USS Kitty Hawk collided.

“The first thought was that the conning tower had been destroyed and the submarine’s body was cut to pieces,” Evseenko recalled. “We checked the periscope and antennas – they were in order. No leaks were reported, and the mechanisms were ok. Then suddenly another strike! In the starboard side! We checked again – everything was in order…. We were trying to figure out what happened. It became clear that an aircraft carrier had rammed us. The second strike hit the propeller. The first one, most likely, bent the stabilator…”

The only option for K-314 was to surface and showing themselves to the Americans. As its sailors were waiting for emergency tow ships, the Soviet submarine immediately received visit from several U.S. Navy aircraft which inspected K-314 from above.

“We immediately launched two helicopters to see if we could render any assistance to them but the Soviet sub appeared to have suffered no extensive damage,” said Kitty Hawk’s commander, Captain David N. Rogers.

K-314’s propeller was heavily damaged as a result of the collision. Kitty Hawk instead had a huge hole in its bow, causing several thousand tons of jet fuel to leak into the sea; by sheer miracle, it did not explode.

The Day Soviet Nuclear Submarine K-314 Rammed USS Kitty Hawk
A US Navy LTV Corsair II from Attack Squadron 146 Blue Diamonds flying over aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).

Luckily, nor did the nuclear weapons on board the Soviet and American vessels detonate.

Close escorted by a US Navy frigate for part of the route, the Soviet Submarine was towed to the nearest Soviet naval base.

For USS Kitty Hawk, exercise Team Spirit was over: the aircraft carrier in fact made its way to the port of Subic Bay for repair.

According to Russia Beyond, the Americans blamed the Soviet submarine captain for the incident, and the Soviet Naval command concurred. Vladimir Evseenko was suspended from the post of captain and continued his service on land.

Evseenko could not agree with such verdict, since the incident had caused no loss of life or the submarine itself: “Everybody was lucky. We didn’t sink, no one got burned.”

“We even managed to kick out the ‘enemy’ for a long time,” he pointed out.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

As USS Kitty Hawk starts her final voyage to the Scrapyard, US Navy sailors fear there will never be another Aircraft Carrier turned into Museum
USS Kitty Hawk

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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Comments

  1. AE3 says:

    I was a member of ships company Kitty Hawk on that cruise and remember that night well! We were at sea for a few days after the collision, and when we docked in Subic Bay it was amazing to see the size of the hole in the starboard bow! It was repaired in a few days and off we went to the Indian Ocean and our duty station off the Persian Gulf! It must have been very scary for the crew of that Russian speed bump!

  2. morganational says:

    “Russian speed bump”, Haha! That’s great. But honestly, that could have very easily become an international incident including escalation. Glad everyone sailed away safely. Thank you for your service. 🫡

  3. Donald Mackay says:

    As a fmr. Submariner, there is a saying we have and it’s that there are two types of ships, 1.submarines and 2.targets.

  4. EriK says:

    That’s BS The Kitty Hawk was repaired in days more like Months! USS Midway was out in the Indian Ocean waiting for Kitty relief for 111 days two or three wrestling Boxing Smokers plus missing port of call Perth Australia! We Even had tshirts made up with Skeleton in Cracker Jacks saying “Here Kitty Kitty Kitty”

  5. zbyrne12@gmail.com says:

    I was a second class BM assigned to ship’s company and the coxswain(small boat operator) that took the divers and close circuit TV out to the impact spot to survey the damage and send the TV signal to the commanding officer, however the location that Kitty Hawk was at ,the water was way too clod for the divers they immediately returned to the small boat. Kitty Hawk steamed overnight and the next attempt was successful. Damage was both sides, port and starboard had massive holes in them. Off to subic bay for repairs. Thanks for the memories. BMC(SW) Ret.

  6. Kenneth Roth says:

    I was onboard the USS Long Beach (CGN-9) which was part of the battle group. I recall that although it certainly was newsworthy they(the navy) downplayed it to an unfortunate minor accident that was clearly their fault. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that it could have blown up into a much bigger deal. For me it meant a few extra days in Subic(always appreciated) before 2 1/2 months straight at sea in the Indian Ocean watching Iran and Iraq slug it out.

  7. EriK says:

    PLus We had Stake Fry’s With 2 Budweiser’s every 45days & A Shalackin From the Shellbacks for Our PollyWog Initiation ! Boy that Shalayley Stung like A Motherscratcher! Me & Walzo are gonna miss you guys this Midway R division weekend! Ens Busher I truly have some kind words for You!!Always ” in God (Jesus) We Trust”

  8. deanasave@gmail.com says:

    I was on the Kitty Hawk (VF-2). We never pulled into Port for months of repair. The Midway says they waited for us. It wasn’t because we were being repaired.
    We were supposed to go for repairs in Japan. Never happened.

  9. EriK says:

    Well we didn’t get relieved! You must of had way to much MOJO Baloot PorK Skin & to many short Times! Love You No Sh*t buy me drink! LMFAO 🤣

  10. AE3 says:

    Well Erik, as I said, we were in Subic for a few days while they patched up the starboard bow, and we went straight to the Indian Ocean. The only other carrier I saw was USS America on the horizon, when they relieved us after 78 days at sea. We then went to Perth, Australia for a week of liberty. Coincidentally, 2 of my shipmates in IM3 division transferred from USS Midway to Kitty Hawk just prior to this cruise!

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