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U.S. shares Kursk intelligence with Russia
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy has provided Russia with a highly-sensitive intelligence assessment of what caused the Russian submarine tragedy in which 118 sailors died, according to senior U.S. Defense Department officials.
CNN has learned that the U.S. Navy's top admiral has sent a letter to his Russian counterpart which included intelligence information gathered by "acoustic monitoring equipment" used to spy on the Russian military exercises.
Two U.S. submarines and a surveillance ship were in place to spy on the Russian military exercises, Pentagon officials told CNN, along with "various other means" of eavesdropping.
The Pentagon still refuses to officially acknowledge there were any U.S. submarines in the area of the exercises which turned to tragedy on August 12 with the Kursk submarine sinking to the bottom of the Barents Sea.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark provided the findings of the intelligence assessment in a letter dated August 31 to Fleet Admiral Kuroyedov, Russia's highest ranking naval officer, the sources said.
The extraordinary and previously inconceivable sharing of intelligence information with Russia came as a result of an "official request from the Russian government" and with the blessing of the White House, according to Pentagon officials.
The intelligence contained in the assessment provided to Russia is limited to the size and location of the explosions, the magnitude and the time of the blasts.
Due to the highly-secretive nature of naval intelligence gathering capabilities, sharing of this type of information would previously have been strictly off-limits, said the sources.
Analysis of acoustic information gathered by the "various sources" August 12 includes, but is not limited to, intelligence collected by the submarines U.S.S. Memphis (SSN-691), U.S.S. Toledo (SSN-769) and the surveillance ship U.S.N.S. Loyal.
It supports initial analysis by the U.S. and concludes that two explosions separated by "approximately two minutes" caused the submarine to go down, the sources said.
Other sources told CNN that the examination of the intelligence conducted by naval acoustic experts had left analysts divided on whether the second, much larger explosion was in fact a single, massive explosion or an extremely fast chain reaction that might indicate a sequential detonation of warheads in the torpedo bay in the forward section of the ship.
The sources said that U.S. analysts believed that more than half -- "probably five" -- of the submarine's nine compartments were flooded almost immediately following the huge blast, probably killing the majority of the crew within minutes, if not seconds.
The analysts also suspect the initial explosion was probably caused by a malfunction of liquid fuel propellant in one of the torpedoes, but have "no proof" of that.
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