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Sunken Soviet sub needs buyer - or it's scrapped

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[March 19, 2010]  PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A former Soviet cruise missile submarine that was once featured in a Hollywood film and sank in the Providence River during a storm last year will be converted to scrap metal if no one agrees to buy it, the president of the foundation that owns it said Wednesday.

The 282-foot submarine, also known as Juliett 484, began serving as a floating educational museum in 2002, until it went down during a powerful nor'easter in April 2007.

Army and Navy dive crews raised the sub in a training exercise last July, and inspections showed the vessel had deteriorated and corroded during its 15 months underwater.

Restoring it to an operational museum would have cost more than $1 million, said Frank Lennon, director of the Russian Sub Museum and president of the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, a private, nonprofit group.

"Based on the input we received from experts, the cost of restoring it was beyond our capabilities," Lennon said.

A local company, Rhode Island Metals Recycling, LLC, has agreed to move the sub downriver and eventually dismantle it for scrap metal if no one offers to buy it intact by the end of January.

"We remain hopeful that someone will step forward who might be interested in taking over the stewardship of this very interesting Cold War relic," Lennon said.

The sub, alternatively designated as K-77, was launched in 1965 as part of the Soviet Northern Fleet. The Juliett class was initially planned as a nuclear missile platform for strikes against the United States and later tracked U.S. aircraft carriers.

The sub was used in the 1990s as a restaurant and vodka bar in Helsinki, Finland, and as a set for the 2002 Harrison Ford movie "K-19: The Widowmaker" before being acquired by the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation.

It opened as a museum in Providence in 2002 and drew tens of thousands of tourists over the years.

Lennon said the museum would remove artifacts such as periscopes, torpedo tube doors, missile firing stations and other items before the sub is dismantled.

He said he had received inquiries about the sub, including one from an Australian group that wanted to sink it and use it as a reef, but no serious offers.

[Associated Press; By ERIC TUCKER]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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