Hostile Waters (film)

Hostile Waters (film)

Hostile Waters is a British 1997 television film about the loss of the K-219, a Yankee I class nuclear ballistic missile sub. The film stars Rutger Hauer as the commander of K-219 and claims to be based on the true story. The film was produced by World Productions for the BBC and HBO, in association with Invision Productions and UFA Filmproduktions. It was written by Troy Kennedy Martin and directed by David Drury, and was first transmitted on BBC One on 26 July 1997.


K-219 performs a Crazy Ivan, and USS Aurora (a thinly-disguised renaming of USS Augusta (SSN-710)) collides with her, causing a rupture of the seal on one of its ballistic missile tubes. The leaking seawater causes a corrosive reaction which floods the sub with toxic gas. The corrosive reaction starts a fire that floods the sub with more toxic gas, and smoke.

The captain surfaces the boat and moves the crew out to the deck, and attempts to vent the sub. The chief engineer informs the captain that the fire may cook off the nukes and cause an enormous nuclear explosion. The launch doors are opened on the sub to vent smoke.

Aurora ascertains that a fire is aboard K-219, and informs the Pentagon. The Pentagon, fearing radiological contamination of the Eastern Seaboard, orders Aurora to prepare to sink K-219. The fact that the launch doors are open on the SLBMs causes consternation in Washington DC, with calls for the immediate sinking of the sub, should it appear to be preparing to launch.

The captain of K-219 prepares a bold plan to dive with the launch doors open, to flood the missile bay and quench the fires. As the captain dives the sub, Aurora prepares to fire, assuming K-219 is setting about to launch its missiles. After a brief but heated argument the U.S. commander is convinced to wait before launching and realises that the Soviet sub is diving, rather than launching its SLBMs.

K-219's tactic works, and the sub resurfaces with the fires out.


Though a title card at the beginning of the film claims that it is "a reconstruction" of the actual K-219 incident, "based on the accounts of the men involved and interviews with high-ranking officials in both the Soviet and American Naval Forces," the United States Navy issued a statement denying the "outrageous" scenario presented in the film, and the film's producers lost a lawsuit brought by Igor Britanov, K-219's captain at the time of the incident.

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