Monday, February 16, 2009


There’s lots of questions about the collision of two nuclear subs in the Atlantic. The British and French subs were on separate patrols when they hit each other.

A few points so far:

It appears that neither sub had much advance warning of the crash. Wouldn’t sonar have picked up an approaching submarine long before it got close enough for any collision?

From Reuters:

The nuclear-powered submarines collided earlier this month but there was no damage to the vessels' weapons, said First Sea Lord Admiral Jonathon Band, head of the Royal Navy.

British and French officials have so far failed to explain how two sophisticated vessels from allied nations could collide in open water, a highly unusual event that is deeply embarrassing for both navies.

"The submarines came into contact at very low speeds, both submarines remain safe and no injuries occurred, " he told a news conference.

"There was no compromise to nuclear safety."

Both submarines were badly damaged in the incident and had to return to port, according to British newspaper reports. Band and the defence ministries in London and Paris would not comment on those reports.

The French defence ministry said: "They briefly entered contact at very low speed while submerged. There were no injuries. Neither their deterrence capability nor nuclear safety were affected."

It said the French vessel suffered damage to its sonar dome, which houses navigation and detection equipment but was able to return to base at L'Ile Longue in Brittany under its own power.

From The Guardian, a UK paper:

“HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant, which were carrying nuclear missiles, are believed to have collided while submerged on 3 or 4 February, according to reports. The submarines had a total of around 250 sailors on board

Defence officials told that the two submarines collided in what they said was an extraordinary accident.

"They can't see each other in the water," an official said, raising questions about the submarines' sonar and why they did not detect one another.

The Ministry of Defence said the Vanguard returned to its base in Faslane, Scotland, with only "scrapes".

France's defence ministry said in a brief statement on 6 February that the Triomphant had struck "a submerged object (probably a container)" during a return jomurney from a patrol, damaging the sonar dome on the front of the mobile
It said no crew members were injured and the nuclear security of the submarine had not been compromised.

After the accident, the French submarine returned to its base on L'Ile Longue near Brest under its own power, escorted by a frigate, the ministry said.

Vanguard, one of Britain's four V-class submarines that make up the Trident nuclear deterrent.”