APL Colloquium

March 25, 2011

Colloquium Topic: Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129

Despite incredible political, military, and intelligence risks, and after six years of secret preparations, the CIA attempted to salvage the sunken Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 from the depths of the North Pacific Ocean in early August 1974. This audacious effort was carried out under the cover of an undersea mining operation sponsored by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. “Azorian”—incorrectly identified as Project Jennifer by the press—was the most ambitious ocean engineering endeavor ever attempted and can be compared to the 1969 moon landing for its level of technological achievement. Following the sinking of a Soviet missile submarine in March 1968, U.S. intelligence agencies were able to determine the precise location and to develop a means of raising the submarine from a depth of more than 16,000 feet. The remarkable effort to reach the K-129, which contained nuclear-armed torpedoes and missiles as well as cryptographic equipment, was conducted with Soviet naval ships a few hundred yards from the lift ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer.

Colloquium Speaker: Norman Polmar

Norman Polmar is an analyst, consultant, and author specializing in naval, aviation, and intelligence issues. Since June 2008 he has been the Senior Consultant for National Security Programs at Gryphon Technologies where he has supported Navy ballistic missile defense, cyber operations, and shipbuilding programs. Until May 2008 he served as the senior policy advisor in the Center for Security Strategies & Operations (CSSO) within General Dynamics/Information Technology; he previously held that position with the Anteon and Techmatics firms prior to corporate buyouts. From 1982 to 1986 and from December 2002 until June 2008 he served as a member of the Secretary of the Navy's Research Advisory Committee (NRAC). He served as chairman of the NRAC panel established in 2005 to determine science and technology requirements for supporting the Navy and Marine Corps in the period 2015--2020. He also served on a sub-panel of the Defense Science Board’s study of transition to and from hostilities (2004) and was a member of a DARPA advisory panel looking at future warfare requirements (2007). In early 2007 he was appointed to help reestablish and to chair the Science and Technology Advisory Committee of the Department of Homeland Security. He served as chair of the committee until 1 August 2009; he remains a member of the committee. Mr. Polmar has consulted on naval-related issues to three U.S. Senators, the Speaker of the House, and the Deputy Councilor to the President, as well as to the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Since 1980 Mr. Polmar has been a consultant to several senior officials in the Navy and Department of Defense, and has directed several studies for U.S. and foreign shipbuilding and aerospace firms. He has also been a consultant to the Australian, Chinese, and Israeli Navies. Prior to 1980, Mr. Polmar was an analyst and then corporate executive with firms performing studies in the naval, aviation, and intelligence areas. Mr. Polmar has written or coauthored 50 published books and numerous articles on naval, aviation, and intelligence subjects. From 1967 to 1977 Mr. Polmar was editor of the United States sections of Jane’s Fighting Ships, being completely responsible for almost one-third of that annual reference work. He left Jane’s to become author/editor of the definitive reference books Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (eight editions) and Guide to the Soviet Navy (four editions), both published by the Naval Institute. Mr. Polmar has lectured on strategic, aviation, and naval subjects to various defense, naval, and private organizations in the United States, Soviet Union/Russia, China, Canada, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Portugal, Israel, Germany, Denmark, and Great Britain. His awards include the Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award for literary achievement (Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, 2004); and Grover Award (Naval Research Advisory Committee, 2008). He was awarded the Admiral Ramsey chair of aviation history at the National Air and Space Museum in 1998-1999.