Russian subs' sale to Iran has U.S. Navy on move

November 05, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- With an eye on the sale of Russian submarines to Iran, the Pentagon has sent a nuclear submarine into the Persian Gulf to examine the acoustic properties of the waters there, according to senior Pentagon officials.

The deployment of the Topeka, which passed through the Strait of Hormuz Sunday, represents the first time that a nuclear-powered American submarine has entered the Persian Gulf.

A senior Defense Department official, who insisted on not being identified, said yesterday that Moscow's sale of three diesel submarines to Tehran for a reported $600 million was an important consideration in the Pentagon's decision to send the Topeka into the gulf.

"It is another factor that makes it more prudent to check out the waters in the Persian Gulf," the senior Defense official said. "Every fixed body of water has its own peculiar characteristics with the way that sound travels. This will enable the Navy to get a better idea how sound behaves in that body of water."

The official said that while in the gulf, the submarine also would undergo routine maintenance, pulling alongside an American submarine tender, the USS Dixon, which is docked in Bahrain.

Another senior official described "the acoustic properties in the gulf" as "something you have got to know if you are going to hunt submarines."

The Russian sale of submarines worries the U.S. Navy, which says the Iranian submarines will introduce a new threat in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

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