Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military

Nuclear Subs 'Collide In Ocean' 622

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that's-gonna-look-bad-on-the-resume dept.
Jantastic noted a BBC report saying "A Royal Navy nuclear submarine was involved in a collision with a French nuclear sub in the middle of the Atlantic. It is understood HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant were badly damaged in the crash earlier this month. Despite being equipped with sonar, it seems neither vessel spotted the other, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt said."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nuclear Subs 'Collide In Ocean'

Comments Filter:
  • Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic&gmail,com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:59AM (#26872197)
    You'd think we would... you know... communicate with our allies? Maybe? At least they didn't almost collide with a lighthouse, though.
    • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

      by wisty (1335733) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:02AM (#26872229)

      They drive on the opposite sides of the street. Maybe they give way differently was well?

      Or maybe they were both in stealth mode.

      • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:29AM (#26872587) Homepage Journal

        They drive on the opposite sides of the street. Maybe they give way differently was well?

        Actually, they were taking a page from NASA's book. Someone accidentally gave a measurement in SAE units, which didn't go over well on a metric boat. I told you using furlongs per fortnight was a bad idea...

        • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Funny)

          by k_187 (61692) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:37AM (#26872681) Journal
          MY subs get 40 rods to the hogshead and that's how I likes it.
          • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

            by Xeth (614132) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:21PM (#26873245) Journal

            Is it a nuclear sub? Because (based on a linear extrapolation from Ivy Mike; sorry, not a Nuclear Engineer) a hogshead of plutonium would generate around 40 gigatons of explosive force if detonated.

            Perhaps your sub works by moving the Earth around it?

            • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

              by Spatial (1235392) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:27PM (#26873333)
              Ah. So it works the same way as an American car does.
            • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Zerth (26112) on Monday February 16, 2009 @02:02PM (#26874645)

              1 hogshead=238.5 L

              238.5 L in 1 hogshead

              Plutonium 19.86 g per cm^3
              1 liter=1000 cm^3
              238500 grams/hoghshead

              238500/19.86=12009 grams of plutonium(call it 12 kilos)

              1 kilo plutonium, fissioned=20,000 tons tnt

              240,000 tons tnt

              1 ton tnt=4.184 Gj

              1004160 Gj of energy per hogshead of plutonium

              40 rods=201 meters

              1004160 Gj/201 meters

              or a hair under 5,000,000,000 kilonewtons

              1 newton being the energy to accelerate 1 kilo to 1 meter per second and the earth being a bit under 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms, I don't think we'd notice much.

              The british sub, weighing about 14,500,000 kilograms, would get something like 344 meters/second out of it. Or just about the speed of sound at sea level. I imagine that might be a first, for a sub, breaking the sound barrier and taking flight(plummeting glide, really) with those stubby dive planes.

              Some one will now rip my math into shreds of sobbing uselessness, probably around the newtons to meters/second part.

    • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Informative)

      by homey of my owney (975234) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:07AM (#26872293)
      The reality is that they now travel very quiet. The collision is just an illustration of that.
    • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sierran (155611) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:08AM (#26872313)

      Nuclear submarines, and especially ballistic missile submarines, don't communicate with anyone at sea unless it's absolutely critical. Communicating gives away your position, and for such submarines, the fact that nobody outside the hull knows exactly where it is is their number one means of survivability. In addition, ballistic missile subs don't have 'allies' - they treat even the surface and submarine forces of their own navy as 'potential hostiles' when at sea in order to maximize their survivability and to continually train to avoid such threats.

      Collisions between submarines were fairly common during the Cold War, and were indicative of the amount of time subs spent playing 'hide and seek' with their opponents - because in order to gain intelligence on other submarines, or even to follow them reliably, subs have to be quite close relative to how long it takes them to stop or turn. As a result, however, most collisions were between or involved attack submarines. For two SSBNs to involved in such a bump, either one or the other had to be involved in SSN-like games, or pretty astronomical odds were just surmounted in a random collision. It's a big ocean. It'll be interesting to see precisely where the damage to the two boats is, as it might tell us what aspect they collided at - I have heard it was a slight angle from head-on. Even that doesn't meant they weren't playing silly buggers - if one submarine turned to check its baffles and the other didn't maneuver out of the way, that could result in an angled head-on.

    • by denzacar (181829) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:29AM (#26872589) Journal

      Nuclear submarines colliding, satellites colliding, 200 million Chinese [cnn.com] suddenly move inland leaving cities, US government giving away billions of dollars to banks...

      Don't know about you, but lately I feel more and more like I am living in a James Bond movie.
      Only I am not the one with cool gadgets, drinking problem and a girl with a sexual innuendo for a name under each arm.

    • You can not (Score:4, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:16PM (#26873195) Journal
      During the Cold War, France was giving up all sorts of NATO and esp American secrets to USSR. It is why they were dropped from the Military side of NATO (no, France did not quit it; they were forced out) in the 60s. I doubt that they would do it today, but you still have wildly differing attitudes about security. Certain EU countries really do not care if info about UK or USA make it over to China, Al Qaeda, North Korea, etc. , thought they get upset when we do the same thing to do them (for a tit for tat). Even now, about the only fully cooperating countries out there are US and UK, and then we both cooperate MOSTLY with Australia, Canada, and Israel. Then NATO comes after that.
      • Saved the asses of the UK in the war against Argentina.

        Francois Mitterand convinced the company that produced the Exocet missiles to give access to the UK to the designs of these weapons.

        Argentina had these missiles and were using them successfully against British ships.

        And France is there in Afghanistan, fighting a fight which many other countries are reluctant to fight...

        And this is just for starters. The Brits have ground to be ambivalent about France, but the US?

        Check the history about the US war of ind

        • Re:France... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kagura (843695) on Monday February 16, 2009 @01:29PM (#26874215)

          Check the history about the US war of independence.

          Why? 300 years ago the US and Britain were enemies, and now they are friends. What happened 300 years ago has no bearing on how we should behave today.

          I hate arguments like that single quoted sentence. It's like how some Koreans complain about Japan invading them over the past few hundred years and the domination from 1905 until 1945 as reasons to dislike Japan and Japanese today.

          I don't even know where the anti-France thing comes from. I just view it as a funny running joke.

  • Euphemism? (Score:5, Funny)

    by FrostDust (1009075) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:01AM (#26872213)

    Is there a reason "collide in ocean" is in quotes? Could we also say they were "bumping their ballasts", "raising their periscopes", and so on?

  • by Caue (909322) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:02AM (#26872227)
    forget the credit crunch. it's the collision crisis that will doom us all. I can already predict people bumping one another on the streets, cows going to waste on the fields, large buildings tripping the little ones... it's the apocalypse.
  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:03AM (#26872245)

    Despite being equipped with sonar, it seems neither vessel spotted the other, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt said."

    That's not surprising. All that stealthy sub technology doesn't work well when you're pinging with active SONAR. When subs don't want to be found, they go quiet and depend on their sensors to pick up noise from other vessels. Of course, if you have two subs each of whicf has stealth technology that is better than the other sub's sensors, then you have a situation where two subs can't see each other. Which could lead to a collision.

    • by coulbc (149394) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:06AM (#26872277)

      It could also be possible one sub had detected the other and was shadowing it. The shadowed sub could have performed and unexpected maneuver and they collided. It's happened before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by squoozer (730327)

        I believe they collided almost head on so unless that manoeuvre was a handbrake turn I doubt they were shadowing one another (submarines not being well known for their manoeuvrability). I suspect that it's more likely a case of wrong place at the wrong time combined with good stealth technology). Actually, this does say a bit about how good the stealth technology must be since they weren't able to passively detect one another.

        • I believe they collided almost head on so unless that manoeuvre was a handbrake turn I doubt they were shadowing one another (submarines not being well known for their manoeuvrability). I suspect that it's more likely a case of wrong place at the wrong time combined with good stealth technology). Actually, this does say a bit about how good the stealth technology must be since they weren't able to passively detect one another.

          While it says something about how good their stealth technology is, it also says s

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by modecx (130548)

            US Subs at least, (can't speak to UK and French sub technology) are supposed to already have a pretty advanced array of non-emitting sensors, including very sensitive gravimeters capable of detecting and mapping gravitational fields around the ship (as I understand it, primarily for detecting and navigating around earthen features, but probably capable of detecting other vessels at shorter ranges), and a number of electromagnetic sensors for detecting things like mines, which probably work just fine for det

    • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:35AM (#26872657) Homepage

      And to misquote Order of the Stick:

      *bump*

      "Sorry for knocking you over, I didn't see you there."

      "Don't worry. Happens all the time. 'Cause, you know. Ninja."

  • All Alone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sanat (702) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:04AM (#26872249)

    Run silent - Run deep.

    When you think you are all alone out there in the big ocean then there is no need for sonar which would just gives your position away... just in case someone is out there.

    When two play the game it can only lead to problems eventually... sort of like driving at night without headlights.

  • by psyopper (1135153) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:04AM (#26872251)
    Maybe if they weren't in super stealth mode they would have seen each other and the accident could have been avoided. This technology is too dangerous and needs to be outlawed through international treaty. The up side is that we know that stealth works!!
  • by pig-power (1069288) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:04AM (#26872259)
    Chekov "where are your nukleer wessels??"
  • Odds ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Davemania (580154) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:05AM (#26872263) Journal
    What are the odds that two advanced SSBN submarines would collide in a vast ocean accidentally ? There are rumors that US and Russian subs collided frequently during the cold wars because of the close proximity when they tracked each other and these incidents were usually silenced for political reasons. perhaps something else is going on ? One of the captains decided to be a smart ass ?
    • Re:Odds ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:09AM (#26872335) Homepage
      Indeed, Sherry Sontag's Blind Man's Bluff [amazon.com] tells a lot of interesting stories about Russian-American submarine escapades during the Cold War. Sometimes our Navies seemed less like proud defenders of the motherland and more like dumbass high school kids playing chicken.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bentcd (690786)

      What are the odds that two advanced SSBN submarines would collide in a vast ocean accidentally ?

      FTFA:
      "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."

      So probably not quite as unlikely as one would have been more comfortable thinking :-)

    • Re:Odds ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:00PM (#26872979)

      "The middle of the Atlantic OCean" is a big place. However, "that maneuverable spot between the underwater mountains that shield you from sonar and doesn't have any currents that will smack you into rocks" is not perhaps such a big place, and it's less surprising that such places might be more frequented by submarines playing hide and seek.

      In fact, it makes me wonder if _both_ subs were hiding from a Russian vessel nearby and pulled the same tricks of concealment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SharpFang (651121)

      The odds are quite good, because the subs don't cruise the ocean at random.

      Even the best stealth technology won't help much in clear, open, stagnant sea. It's the background noise you hide in.
      The borders of oceanic currents of various temperature and salination water create zones that neatly reflect noises, create quite a bit of background noise themselves, and in short, for a submarine, are what a bunch of seaweed is to a fish - a great place to hide in. Plus they often run for many, many miles along the c

  • by Goffee71 (628501) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:07AM (#26872297) Homepage
    Otherwise we would not know that submarines have been equipped with Sonar (well, ASDIC at least) since the 1940s. Of course, they might have mentioned that boomers try to sneak around quietly without having Sonar disco parties. Still, no dolphins were murdered in the making of this accident!
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:08AM (#26872309) Homepage Journal

    That was the most retarded thing that could possibly have been added to that summary. You don't use active sonar unless you want to be found. Passive sonar won't find everything. It's entirely possible that both subs detected each other, both went silent, and both coasted right into one another. The FA is hilarious though:

    Lib Dem defence spokesman Nick Harvey has called for an immediate internal inquiry with some of the conclusions made public.

    "While the British nuclear fleet has a good safety record, if there were ever to be a bang it would be a mighty big one," he said.

    No, Nick. It wouldn't be, because nuclear weapons have to be detonated. A lot of careful work goes into making sure they don't go off accidentally. If two subs crash hard enough to destroy them, there will be a lot of bubbles, and dead crewmen.

    Meanwhile, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson has called for a government statement.

    "The Ministry of Defence needs to explain how it is possible for a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction to collide with another submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction in the middle of the world's second-largest ocean," he said.

    Well, (Colonel?) Angus, it's called physics. See, two objects with mass cannot occupy the same space...

    The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament described the collision as "a nuclear nightmare of the highest order".

    CND chair Kate Hudson said: "The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed."

    No, a nuclear nightmare of the highest order is scores of terrorists running around with suitcase nukes. (you know, like the USA)

    The collision of two submarines would actually be unlikely to release vast amounts of radiation, although it could scatter scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed. This is actually enormously unlikely since the weapons are stored in the most structurally secure portion of the vessel, in their own launch tubes. Most likely they would stay in the tubes in all but the most severe impact. Remember, submarines are not made out of porcelain. They are made out of various metals and in a collision (as opposed to an explosion) they would not likely separate into many pieces. Just think of the physics involved - when two cars collide head-on at over 50 mph they do not typically disintegrate. The total energy is vastly higher here, but the relative speed is much slower, and a lot of the energy involved will be absorbed by the water in the way that air doesn't.

    I'm as put off by the fact of WWIII in a can being writ across our oceans many times over as the next guy, but I prefer to skip the bullshit rhetoric. I guess that's why I'm not a politician.

  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bmo (77928) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:11AM (#26872361)

    FTFA

    "The Ministry of Defence needs to explain how it is possible for a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction to collide with another submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction in the middle of the world's second-largest ocean," he said.

    See the statement above...

    Nuclear engineer John Large (braggart) 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."

    It doesn't matter if the parking lot is large, but if the situation is as if Sony is giving away flatscreen televisions, maybe the respective Defense Departments need to find other parking lots.

    Ya think?

  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:13AM (#26872371)
    Well, this was bound to happen. I hear things are getting pretty cramped down there in the ocean.
  • Same side (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:13AM (#26872387)
    A head on collision was bound to happen even if they knew the other sub was there. The French drive on the right, the British on the left.
    • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:21PM (#26873261)

      "A head on collision was bound to happen even if they knew the other sub was there. The French drive on the right, the British on the left."

      What retard modded this Insightful? Funny, sure. Even Redundant. But FFS, Insightful?

      • Re:Same side (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bottlemaster (449635) on Monday February 16, 2009 @02:14PM (#26874801)

        What retard modded this Insightful? Funny, sure. Even Redundant. But FFS, Insightful?

        Funny doesn't contribute to karma, so it's common for mods to instead use Insightful, Interesting, or Informative. I usually use whichever is funniest in the context of the post.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by xant (99438)

      It's just like that one place in the chunnel where all the English have to suddenly veer over to the right to keep from hitting the French, and vice-versa. Lots of accidents there.

  • Bright Thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:19AM (#26872449) Homepage

    The bit I find hilarious about every showing of this story that I've seen on the net, is that everyone says "How can this have happened?"

    Do *you* want to tell the French where all our nuclear subs are at any moment in time?
    Do the French want to tell us where all their nuclear subs are at any moment in time?
    Do *you* want to be in a country where all our nuclear subs light up the sonar of any passing ship like a Christmas tree?

    No. Therefore, it's an INCREDIBLE show of the power of the anti-detection capabilities of these subs that they BOTH manouvered close enough to each other to collide without EITHER of them detecting the other. That's bloody fantastic. A technology used by the military that actually works in production and has an incredibly relevant use.

    As to what happens in a collision... if ANY country in the world truly has nuclear weapons that can be set off without being ARMED first, then we have a bigger problem than what happens if two tiny ships in a vast, three-dimensional ocean might happen to accidentally collide. These things NEED to withstand just about anything, or else the enemy just fires one shot in the right place and "Blam!"... nuclear detonation without ever having owned a nuclear weapon.

    Similarly for the onboard reactor. Nuclear subs are not fragile, and their designers not stupid (as has been proved by the anti-sonar technology!)... if a sub is really that easy to sink / destroy and leak radiation enough to matter, then they become nothing more than timebombs. When they next dock for repairs etc. (which cannot really be hidden from satellites, etc.), just blow them up and you've set off a nuclear warhead / contaminated the seas inside your enemies own country.

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:23AM (#26872509) Journal

    USS Agusta vs. Russian nuclear submarine: It's true, trust me [wikipedia.org]

    Big 8 military always play little war games with each other; sometimes there are accidents. There is absolutely NO reason to think the British and French don't play war games. If the USA and USSR couldn't get sonar navigation good enough for playing chicken, there is no reason to think the British and French would.

    Meh, shit happens....

  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:33AM (#26872639)

    Looks like we'll have to alter the age-old saying "passed like ships in the night" to include "... except French and British nuclear submarines".

  • by hampton (209113) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:39AM (#26872711)

    "Now go away or I shall bump you a second time!"

  • Chicken of the sea! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:40AM (#26872725) Homepage

    This is not likely. I have served in the Navy and am familiar a lot of how this stuff works and happens and ultimately, I believe this came down to a game of chicken where neither wanted to change course. Why they didn't want to? Who knows exactly, but acknowledging that you know that someone else is there reveals a lot about yourself that you wouldn't otherwise want them to know....such as that you have the capability to know where they are which is a useful secret in war-time. After all, if they don't know they can be seen, they will think they are invisible.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:42AM (#26872739)
    Many people in the UK believe that Trident is an expensively useless deterrent. Sarkozy said Brown had no idea how to fix the economic crisis. Soon after, there is a submarine collision. Brown was trying to upset Sarkozy while pandering to the right-wing UK tabloids and justifying the cost by using Trident to take on the French. Unfortunately, budget cuts mean that Trident subs are now crewed by mothers of private school kids whose only driving experience is using their Range-Rovers and Grand Cherokees to push poor people off the pavement. There could only be one outcome.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:48AM (#26872801)

    "This is a lighthouse. Your call."

  • by teridon (139550) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:57PM (#26873789) Homepage

    I heard the front fell off!

  • by AugustFalcon (165801) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:27PM (#26880769)

    Been there, done that. When you are in your patrol area typically you are making turns for 3 knots or less. If you get a contact you try to avoid it without either leaving your patrol area or being detected yourself.

    Occasionally your are either unable to estimate the range to a contact due to a technical reason or sonar just blows the estimate. That's what happened to us. We had him on sonar: a weak sound level with a zero bearing rate -- sonar told us he was far away.

    Our collision was with a Russian boat. We had just started to clear baffles to port when he hit us on the starboard side just forward of the sail. He took out all the forward ballast tanks on the starboard side. If we hadn't just started to clear baffles to port he would have T-boned us and it would have been a lot uglier for us.

    He had no clue that we were there -- he thought he had hit the bottom (immediately he lit off his fathometer on the short scale) --- the water was 6,000 feet deep. His reactor plant scrammed, he started flooding and had to surface. We just went deep and snuck away.

    I know the U.S. boats and systems are much tougher than many think and I am certain the British and French boats are comparable.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

Working...