The Norwegian daily Aftenposten has released fresh photos of the KMN Helge Ingstad frigate, which under unclear circumstances collided with the tanker Sola TS off Norway's coast when returning from a NATO drill.
The frigate received a huge hole in the starboard spanning across the waterline; seven seamen were injured. The crew abandoned the sinking ship which was subsequently tugged to shallow waters to prevent it from sinking.
A few days after the incident, which is still puzzling the Norwegian authorities, the frigate remains above surface, but has completely sunk to the bottom, with a 45-degree lurch to the starboard. Over 10 tons of helicopter fuel has leaked into the seawater.
No information about the status of the weapons abroad, including cruise and anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes and artillery, is available as of today.
By contrast, the oil tanker Sola TS was not affected by the accident.
Фрегат Helge Ingstad Королевских ВМС Норвегии после столкновения с танкером Sola TS. Фото Martin Strande. pic.twitter.com/ZrqkuY5b6y— Ivan O'Gilvi (@o_gilvi) November 13, 2018
The reasons for the emergency are under investigation by a navy commission. Possible explanations for the collision include the frigate moving in stealth mode with the transponder switched off or bad communications with traffic controllers.
A veteran maritime expert estimated that the KNM Helge Ingstad has suffered so much damage that up to 80 percent of the equipment will have to be replaced, voicing doubt that the prized vessel will ever become operational again.
"I have my doubts about the wreck becoming a ship again. The vessel has been torn by the rocks, and the damage is huge," expert Erik Tveten, who has 35 years of experience in assessing marine damage, told the daily newspaper Aftenposten.
According to Tveten, most of the electrical equipment and the wiring on the frigate will have to be replaced. Since the control cockpit is partially under water, most of the furnishing will need to be replaced as well. The main engine and auxiliary motors will have to be replaced as well, together with the ventilation system, as they have already been severely damaged by severe rust and corrosion.
"With regard to the purely military material that has been in seawater, it must be replaced as well. It seems unlikely to be able to restore guns and ammunition that have been in seawater," Tveten told Aftenposten.
The NATO Trident Juncture drill, which involved about 50,000 troops from over 30 countries, including formally non-aligned Sweden and Finland, took place from October 25 to November 7. The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the drill as "obviously anti-Russian" and "leading to deterioration of military and political situation in the region."