Chair Force Engineer

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Project Azorian: More Questions than Answers

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, the CIA has finally admitted the existence of Project Azorian. This was probably the most audacious covert operation during the entire Cold War; at least a small section of the sunken Soviet submarine K-129 was secretly raised from the ocean floor in 1974 by a specially-built salvage ship, the Glomar Explorer.

Up to this point, the operation had been known in the popular press as "Jennifer," rather than "Azorian." When I heard the official name, I immediately thought of the USS Scorpion which sank near the Azores in May 1968. For years, author and naval nuclear engineer Kenneth Sewell has promoted the theory that Scorpion was sunk by the Soviets in retaliation for the loss of K-129, which was blamed on the Americans.

As I've grown older, I've grown far more skeptical of conspiracy theories. When it comes to the case of the USS Scorpion, I think that Stephen Johnson paints a compelling case in his book Silent Steel that Scorpion suffered an undetermined mechanical problem that forced the boat to rapidly sink below crush depth. The Soviets didn't have a good shot at locating Scorpion, let alone sinking her. But the "Azorian" name plants some seeds of doubt in my mind. Maybe the CIA saw themselves as "avenging" the 99 souls lost with Scorpion by retrieving K-129 from the Ocean floor. Who knows? But I have no doubt that Kenneth Sewell will claim this as one more piece of evidence for a larger conspiracy, and sell yet another book on the subject to prove his point.