MOSCOW -- A specially equipped U.S. submarine recovered two nuclear bombs in 1976 from the underwater wreckage of a Soviet strategic bomber that had crashed in the North Pacific that year, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reports.
The submarine Grayback reached the wreckage and recovered the bombs after Japanese air defense officials, who had tracked the bomber, alerted the U.S. naval command and relayed the precise position of the wreckage, the newspaper said reported yesterday.
The Soviet Navy took no action to recover the bombs because it was never informed of the crash by the country's central military command, Izvestia said, citing as its source a senior Soviet naval official who later investigated the incident.
The official, Rear Admiral Anatoly Shtyrov, was a high-ranking staff officer at the headquarters of the Soviet Navy's Pacific fleet when the crash occurred, the paper said. Admiral Shtyrov told Izvestia that he learned of the incident shortly after it took place and prepared a full report for the fleet commander, who failed to act on it.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the report. Japanese military officials have denied any knowledge of the incident, according to news reports in Japan.
According to Izvestia, the bomber was on a routine patrol laden with two nuclear bombs when it went down in the Sea of Okhotsk about 20 miles off Sakhalin Island in the Soviet Far East.
Japanese air defense officials tracked the plane, using their large military radar station on the island of Hokkaido the newspaper said. The Japanese officials turned their findings over to U.S. Navy officers based in Japan, it said.