the “new” problem of nukes at sea

by twit

Two nuclear-armed submarines crashed into each other in early February:

As inquiries began, naval sources said it was a millions-to-one unlucky chance both subs were in the same patch of sea. Warships have sonar gear which locates submarines by sound waves.

But modern anti-sonar technology is so good it is possible neither boat “saw” the other.

although this kind of thing may happen more often than one might think:

The USS San Francisco, a nuclear submarine, crashed into an undersea mountain at its top speed of about 32 knots in 2005. One crew member was killed and 97 injured.

but not to worry!

HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant were badly damaged in the crash in heavy seas earlier this month.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said the submarines came into contact at low speed and no injuries were reported.

Both the UK and France insisted nuclear security had not been compromised.

it was just a “one-in-a-million” chance, really!

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the incident was “incredibly embarrassing” for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

… “This is clearly a one-in-a-million chance when you think about how big the Atlantic is,” she said.

just think about how big the Atlantic is!

Nuclear engineer John Large told the BBC that navies often used the same “nesting grounds”.

“Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports. So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States.”

the trick, of course, is to pay no attention…

The submarines are equipped with sonar to detect other vessels nearby but our correspondent said it might the case that the anti-sonar devices, meant to hide the submarines from enemies, were “too effective”.

updateFrom CNN on March 20, 2009:

The submarine, the USS Hartford, collided with the USS New Orleans about 1 a.m. in the strait, which runs between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.

… The nuclear propulsion plant on the 362-foot-long sub was not damaged, but “New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine,” the release said.

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