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UK - French Nuke Subs Collide


William Kelly
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/16/n...marines-collide

A Royal Navy nuclear submarine and a French vessel have been damaged in a collision deep below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant, which were carrying nuclear missiles on routine patrols, are reported to have collided while submerged on 3 or 4 February. Between them they had about 250 sailors on board.

The Ministry of Defence initially refused to confirm the incident, saying it was not policy to comment on submarine operations. This afternoon the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, issued a statement saying the two vessels hit each other while travelling at very low speeds and no one was injured.

"We can confirm that the capability remained unaffected and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety," he said. The MoD said the Vanguard returned to its base in Faslane, Scotland, with only "scrapes".

Defence officials told guardian.co.uk the two submarines collided in what they said was an extraordinary accident. "They can't see each other in the water," one official said, raising questions about the submarines' sonar and why they did not detect one another.

Opposition parties asked how the accident was possible. The SNP's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said: "The UK 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.

"In contrast to MoD secrecy, the French military authorities publicised details of the incident on a website. The MoD cannot hide behind operational secrecy and must make a statement on this as a priority."

The shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, called the incident "extremely worrying".

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Nick Harvey, said: "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. The public entrust this equipment to the government confident that all possible precautions are being taken. Now that this incident is public knowledge, the people of Britain, France and the rest of the world need to be reassured this can never happen again and that lessons are being learned."

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 journey from a patrol, damaging the sonar dome on the front of the submarine.

It said no crew members were injured and the nuclear security of the submarine had not been compromised.

Today the ministry confirmed that another sub was involved, saying: "They briefly came into contact at a very low speed while submerged."

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

Vanguard, one of Britain's four V-class submarines that make up the Trident nuclear deterrent, each of which is capable of carrying up to 16 missiles, was said to have visible dents on its hull as it was towed home at the weekend. Inquiries are under way on both sides of the Channel.

Kate Hudson, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairwoman, described the incident as "a nuclear ­nightmare of the highest order".

"The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons on board, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed," she said. "The dents reportedly visible on the British sub show the boats were no more than a couple of seconds away from total catastrophe."

Hudson said it was the first time since the cold war that two nuclear-armed submarines were known to have collided.

"These dangers are inherent whilst the British government maintains its 1960s policy of having at least one nuclear ­weapons submarine sailing round the Atlantic 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," she said. "HMS Vanguard is likely to be confined to port for months with a multimillion-pound repair bill. Gordon Brown should seize this opportunity to end continuous patrols."

Le Triomphant, which entered service in 1997, carries 16 nuclear missiles and is one of four nuclear-armed submarines in the French fleet.

Stephane Lhomme, a spokesman for the French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire, said its network of activists was on alert for any signs of radioactive leaks near French shores.

"This reminds us that we could have a new catastrophe with a nuclear submarine at any moment. It is a risk that exists during missions but also in port," he said. "These are mobile nuclear reactors."

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Sorry, but do you think this is the first time this has happened? It isn't - at least between other navies. Being a submariner can be a dangerous business.

No Evan,

Why would I think this is the first time that it happened?

I am just surprised that it happened on February 3rd or 4th, we still don't even know exactly when it occurred, and both Navies and countries kept it quiet - out of the news, for ten days or more.

In fact, I'm quite aware that such subs play cat and mouse games all the time, and often come quite close to each other.

I think its a good case study on secrecy and national security that you can't blame on the CIA or Mockingbird.

And it also provides a good opportunity to review the submariner angles to the JFK assassination, the topic of the Thresher thread.

BK

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My apologies, Bill - I mistakenly formed the impression by posting the article you thought this was a bit of a first. Sorry!

The submarine service have a habit of keeping things very close hold; it doesn't surprise me that they kept it quiet. It's not called the silent service for nothing. As you say, it's a very good example.

If interested, might I suggest BLIND MAN'S BLUFF by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. A very good look at US submarine operations against the USSR.

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My apologies, Bill - I mistakenly formed the impression by posting the article you thought this was a bit of a first. Sorry!

The submarine service have a habit of keeping things very close hold; it doesn't surprise me that they kept it quiet. It's not called the silent service for nothing. As you say, it's a very good example.

If interested, might I suggest BLIND MAN'S BLUFF by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. A very good look at US submarine operations against the USSR.

Hi Evan,

I'm already quite familiar with Sontag and Drew, as their book details quite clearly how they use subs for electronic surveillance and communications intercepts.

Check out the Thresher thread, which goes into the fact that Oswald is suppose to have taken a pot shot at Walker on April 10, 1963, the day the Thresher went down.

DeMohrenschildt also tried to get Oswald a job at Collins Radio, introducing Oswald to his friend retired Adml. Chester Brouton, whose speciality was sub communcaiton systems.

It's also interesting to point out that DeMorhrenschildt roomed with a navy guy who would become a skipper of the Thresher, that Clay Shaw wrote a play about a submarine stuck on the ocean floor, that Oswald distributed his FPCC leaflets to sub crew when it docked at New Orleans, and the book (not the movie) Paralax View ends with a murder in the swamps of New Jersey - between Wildwood and Cape May - where there was, for twenty or thirty years, a special base used to communicate with nuke subs.

Then there's Navy Lt. Com. Narut, whose death notice was recently posted here, who said that special Navy assassins were recruited from sub crews.

As for the most recent collision at sea, the significance is in the length of the delay in the news reports. How do you keep two subs, their crews and the naval and security apparatus of the nations of UK and France to keep quite about such an event?

BK

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I actually found it surprising that it was released already. With no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs what is the reason to let the public know at all? But as for the delay, the incident was probably released after their investigations, at least preliminary, were concluded.

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I actually found it surprising that it was released already. With no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs what is the reason to let the public know at all? But as for the delay, the incident was probably released after their investigations, at least preliminary, were concluded.

Yea, I wonder why they bothered to tell us JFK was killed at all.

BK

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I actually found it surprising that it was released already. With no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs what is the reason to let the public know at all? But as for the delay, the incident was probably released after their investigations, at least preliminary, were concluded.

Yea, I wonder why they bothered to tell us JFK was killed at all.

BK

How is that in any way related?

ETA: And maybe it is just me, but I took your answer to be sarcastic. You asked a question, I gave a plausible answer. Why the perceived hostility?

Edited by Matthew Lewis
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I actually found it surprising that it was released already. With no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs what is the reason to let the public know at all? But as for the delay, the incident was probably released after their investigations, at least preliminary, were concluded.

Yea, I wonder why they bothered to tell us JFK was killed at all.

BK

How is that in any way related?

ETA: And maybe it is just me, but I took your answer to be sarcastic. You asked a question, I gave a plausible answer. Why the perceived hostility?

Sorry, Matt, no hostility intended. Scarism, yes.

How are they related?

Well, it's the whole idea that LBJ and the Warren Commission thought it was in the best interest of the people of the United States that they not know the total truth - and the French and the British seem to think that its okay not to bother telling the world that two nuke equiped subs colided and there was no public interest that this even took place.

I guess its the idea of a national security state, that holds secrecy above public interest.

There's a book out that I haven't read yet, but it is the only book that mentions Four Leaves and the National Security Action Memo that JFK signed on September 23, 1963, regarding military communications, that is still secret. This book, which I will get back to you on, with title and author etc., is about the near miss nuke accidents that took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and there were over a dozen of them.

But its cearly in the public interest that such national security secrets are maintained forever, not just for ten or fifty years, but never revealed.

Why bother? It's not in the public's interest to know such things.

BK

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But the point is they did let the public know so apparently the French and British don't "seem to think that its okay not to bother telling the world that two nuke equiped subs colided and there was no public interest that this even took place." I was commenting from a military perspective where again, there was no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials, and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs, then the military, which is generally secretive by nature wouldn't have much reason to tell anybody. This is not without precedent. Sure the public knows when the military has a jet crash even if there is no loss fo life but total loss of a plane but I guarantee there are plenty of more accidents that just never even make the news at all.

I then gave a possible reason for the delay. One that is also not without precedent.

As for the JFK reference, as I've never gone to that forum, how would I be expected to understand the reference?

Edited by Matthew Lewis
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But the point is they did let the public know so apparently the French and British don't "seem to think that its okay not to bother telling the world that two nuke equiped subs colided and there was no public interest that this even took place." I was commenting from a military perspective where again, there was no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials, and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs, then the military, which is generally secretive by nature wouldn't have much reason to tell anybody. This is not without precedent. Sure the public knows when the military has a jet crash even if there is no loss fo life but total loss of a plane but I guarantee there are plenty of more accidents that just never even make the news at all.

I then gave a possible reason for the delay. One that is also not without precedent.

As for the JFK reference, as I've never gone to that forum, how would I be expected to understand the reference?

Yea, I know there's probably plenty more accidents that just never even make the news at all.

As for the JFK reference, it's just the fact that the national security implications of the assassination of the President in 1963 have yet to be adaquetly addressed and resolved so that such political assassinations are not as much of a national security threat as they are, and will continue to be unitl those issues are addressed and answered.

And they never would have revealed it if the listing of a line item in the reports wasn't noticed by a reporter and published in the paper.

BK

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I thought that Walker didn't have access to sub crypto, only surface / air? When his deeds came out, it was a good justification for the submarine service's compartmentalization from the rest of the navy. Happens in our navy, too.

BTW - I thought THRESHER was sunk because of a broken pipe causing flooding?

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My first impression is there is nothing untoward about this incident... apart from maybe bad luck. Both the vessels were what the US call 'boomers' - SSBNs. The first of their aims to is be silent - to hide. Their patrol areas would seems to have overlapped, they were both being quiet and they probably got a sniff of each other. They'd each go ultra-quiet to avoid detection. Being essentially blind to each other, they blundered into each other.

Because they were both SSBNs, I'd imagine they would assess the damage and finding nothing of immediate concern, clear the area before notifying their relative national commands.

Although it seems that a collision is pretty-much certain to be the explanation, I wouldn't rule out a submerged container. If the either of the subs were at fairly shallow depth - perhaps for sending a burst transmission? - then hitting a container is possible. It's happened on a number of occasions to surface vessels, and I know I have reported at least one partially sunken container myself.

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I thought that Walker didn't have access to sub crypto, only surface / air? When his deeds came out, it was a good justification for the submarine service's compartmentalization from the rest of the navy. Happens in our navy, too.

BTW - I thought THRESHER was sunk because of a broken pipe causing flooding?

I don't know anything about Walker's access to sub crypto and didn't suggest anything.

As for the THRESHER, the pipe seals were apparently made by Bendix? and Bray worked for them.

Bray says he was visited by three men who represented JFCOTT - Justice for the Crew of the Thresher and were going to kill John Connally.

There was a trial and microfilm of transcript of the trial are in existence.

A film of the JFK assassination other than the Zapruder film, is mentioned in the trial transcripts and may have been shown as the trial.

To me, that sounds a lot like the Odio incident, and the build up of another possible motive for the assassination and alternative patsy.

See the Thresher thread.

I don't think there's anything "untoward" about this collision incident either, except how it was revealed to the public nearly two weeks after it occurred, and how it came out.

And my note that this delay can't be attributed to the usual whipping boy - Mockingbird.

It's just another case study in government suppression of national security incidents.

BK

Edited by William Kelly
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I actually found it surprising that it was released already. With no loss of life, no release of nuclear materials and the collision not likely caused by a mechanical failure that would recall other subs what is the reason to let the public know at all? But as for the delay, the incident was probably released after their investigations, at least preliminary, were concluded.

Hey Matt,

I was thinking some more about this, and another national security implication of this incident is that it will call the public's attention to the continued proliferation of nukes, especially nuclear missiles on free wheeling subs from a half dozen different countries, each with enough firepower to destroy civilizaion as we know it.

Maybe it will eventually lead to an new strategy of reducing the number of nukes and replace the now obsolete policy of maintaining fleets of nuke subs that can never be used.

When will Pakistan, India, Iran and Israel get to play with nuke subs?

BK

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