Waterspace Mis-Management

Holy Crap. How does THIS happen??

BRITISH and French nuclear submarines which collided deep under the Atlantic could have sunk or released deadly radioactivity, it emerged last night.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Vanguard and the French Navy’s Le Triomphant are both nuclear powered and were carrying nuke missiles.

Between them they had around 250 sailors on board.

A senior Navy source said: “The potential consequences are unthinkable. It’s very unlikely there would have been a nuclear explosion.”

Everyone’s first thought is, of course “Couldn’t they hear each other?!” Of course not. They’re submarines. They are designed to be quite. I’ve intentionally come close in exercises and not been able to hear other subs.

But there’s the rub. I’ve intentionally come close, but the exercise was set up with assigned areas for the boats to stay in. You know, you promise to stay shallow and I promise to stay deep.

So we don’t collide like.

SO my question is, how do two countries, with supposed friendly relations, and organizations like NATO working to make sure submarines are assigned specific waters that are separate, find themselves with their ships going bump in the night?

The truth is… this can very easily happen. Someone could have been out of their assigned area. The assigned areas could have been created poorly, creating an overlap that nobody noticed. Maybe one of the ships was on a classified mission, so it’s location was not shared with other nations. Tons of options here.

Bottom line though is that I’m glad no one was injured. It’s a dangerous business we’re in. And truth be told, there but for the grace of God go I. This could truly happen to anyone, regardless of your faith in the “big ocean, little submarine” theory.

It’ll be interesting to see what other news comes out from this, but I suspect there won’t be much.

note: Technically, this is more of a PMI issue than WSM. But them’s details I’m not going into here.

UPDATE: 16FEB: The story’s been picked up over at the US Naval Institute Blog, the way being led by our man Chap.

Also, Gahlran’s place has picked up the discussion, here but, as usual for this sort of thing, there’s a lot of non-submarine speculation going on (not just at G’s place, but everywhere). There aren’t any great conspiracy theories here. The two ships were most certainly NOT trying to track each other or some other great Cold War Cat-and-Mouse game. Chances are, France doesn’t coordinate water space with other NATO countries for patrol areas, and the one-in-a-million chance of overlap finally happened.

Heck, two satellites collided in space this week. So anything can happen once. Right?

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2 Responses to Waterspace Mis-Management

  1. Loping Squid says:

    Don’t know, but (speculating here never have been on a boomer) I suspect we don’t tell even our closest allies where they’re on patrol…

  2. fastnav says:

    LS, I’d totally agree with you on that. But you’d think/hope that they’d at least give a VAGUE area to stay out of.

    Like, hey, we’re going to patrol somewhere in the Southwest USA (and really send the boat to Florida) just so the other guy would stay up in New England. You know?

    This is ridiculous, but I can see how it happens.

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