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Bathing in Fire

    

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Bathing in Missile Fire


Live P-15 AntiShip Missile being fired from a ship.

This is a picture of a real P-15 Anti-Ship Missile firing from the ship. I am sure you can imagine what would happen if this missile malfunctioned or fails to take off and explods inside its safety container for some reason. I was standing just behind this firing missile. This is a true story and even I cannot believe I survived this incident.

This true life story happened sometime in mid 2000. I was a naval pilot and as usual we were embarked with a helicopter in a Frigate Class of ship somewere in the Arabian Sea. I had flown a mission over the sea from midnight till 4 am and once again from 8 am till lunch. Flying a Seaking over the sea for four hours at a stretch is a tough job. on landing I was told that at 6 pm there is another four hour flight planned for me.

I had lunch and was came back to my cabin. The sea state was about 2 to 3 and the ship was rolling a pitching. I hit my bunk at around 2 pm to take rest to get fresh for the night launch. I switched off my light and I was so tired that I slept off. I woke up hearing some announcement on the ship broadcast speaker in my cabin. I didn't really hear what was the announcement as I woke up from deep sleep and was still feeling sleepy.

I switched on the light in my cabin and looked at my wrist watch. My watch showed the time was 5:45. I couldn't make out if it is am or pm. So, as usual I presumed I have woken up in the morning. I wore my bath robe, took my toilet items and proceeded to the washroom. I stepped out to the alleway and I was surprised to see that a ship with over 300 men had an empty alleyway. It looked unusual. I walked into the washroom. Once again, I found no one even there.

I finished all my routines quickly and then got into the shower. Even though, there is a broadcast speaker in the bathroom, no announcement came through that either. There was an eerie silence. Something was not right. I stood in the cold shower trying to shake off my sleepiness.

I was half way through my bath with soap all over my body, when all the hell broke loose. There was an ear shattering rumble followed by an unusually loud bullet firing sound that almost made me deaf. I felt the whole ship shaking violently for a moment. All the lights in the bathroom went off with bullet firing sound as all the tube lights fell down with glass shattering all around. I was now standing naked in the darkness.

I regained my senses, finished my bath. The bathroom started getting warmer. To get my direction in the darkness, I touched the bulkheads and found that one bulkhead (metal wall) was so hot that my cold wet hand almost burned and suddenly withdrew involuntarily. It was a bit scary. I started thinking that our ship has been hit by a missile or something and is probably on fire. I quickly discarded that thought, as I could not hear any voices or any announcements on the ship's broadcast speakers.

I knew that this bathroom was the forwardmost compartment on that deck. So, I presumed that the bulkhead was hot due to the Sun. But, how can the sun heat up the bulkhead to such high temperature baffled me. Also, my brain told me that it was 5:45 am and the Sunrise is yet to rise. I was a bit confused now and was in a hurry to get out of the hot bathroom.

I put on my bathrobe and somehow managed to come out of the bathroom. Some glass pieces of the tubelights on the bathroom floor made creepy crushing sounds breaking the silence as I walked over them. It was dark outside the bathroom on the alleyway too. Probably, the ship's lighting system also had tripped. But, the emergency lamps on the two ends of the alleyway was the only dim source of light that guided me back to my cabin. Inside an airconditioned spaces of a ship made of steel, it is impossible to make out if it is day or night outside.

I went to my cabin, got in to my flying overalls as fast as I could and walked through the alleway to the helicopter hangar. As I reached the aircraft hangar, I saw the sun almost setting behind the ship.

My men looked at me surprised and one of them asked, "Sir, where were you? The aircraft hangar was the nominated shelter station for all the flight crew."

I didn't quite understand and replied, "Shelter station for what event?"

The sailor said, "Sir, for the Ship's Missile Firing".

There are about three to four shelter stations in any war ship, where the ship's men have to assemble during events  like an enemy attack on the ship and dangerous events like missile firing where the missile can malfunction and explode on the ship itself if it fails to take off. The aim of the shelter station is that, should something go wrong, the men are safe and can survive unharmed. In the middle of the sea, there is no where to run if the ship is hit, a fire breaks out or the ship starts sinking.

That is when for the first time I realised that I was bathing naked just 5 feet behind the huge 2 ton, 3 meter long Anti-Ship Missile with a 15 meter long tail of rocket fire during its firing, that could have actually melted the 10 mm thick steel wall protecting me in the bathroom. It was a P-15 anti-ship missile fire that I had survived standing just 3 feet behind it.

An involuntary shiver went through me as I tried to replay the scene in my mind. What if the missile had malfunctioned or failed to take off as programmed? What if the missile had exploded in its container there itself? The super hot missile tail fire could have melted down the steel bulkhead of the bathroom that was between the missile and me, and instantly evaporated me into thin air. I gave a smile to my men and walked towards my helicopter to inspect it and prepare it for the night mission.

    


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