British, French nuclear subs collide in Atlantic
By DAVID STRINGER
LONDON (AP) — Nuclear submarines from Britain and France collided
deep in the Atlantic Ocean this month, authorities said Monday in the
first acknowledgment of a highly unusual accident that one expert
called the gravest in nearly a decade.
Officials said the
low-speed crash did not damage the vessels' nuclear reactors or
missiles or cause radiation to leak. But anti-nuclear groups said it
was still a frightening reminder of the risks posed by submarines
prowling the oceans powered by radioactive material and bristling with
The first public indication of a mishap came
when France reported in a little-noticed Feb. 6 statement that one of
its submarine had struck a submerged object — perhaps a shipping
container. But confirmation of the accident only came after British
media reported it.
France's defense ministry said Monday that the
sub Le Triomphant and the HMS Vanguard, the oldest vessel in Britain's
nuclear-armed submarine fleet, were on routine patrol when they
collided in the Atlantic this month. It did not say exactly when, where
or how the accident occurred.
France said that Le Triomphant
suffered damage to a sonar dome — where navigation and detection
equipment is stored — and limped home to its base on L'Ile Longue on
France's western tip. HMS Vanguard returned to a submarine base in
Scotland with visible dents and scrapes, the BBC reported.
two submarines came into contact at very low speed," Britain's First
Sea Lord, Admiral Jonathon Band, said. Band, Britain's most senior
naval officer, offered no further explanation.
HMS Vanguard came
into service in 1993, has a crew of around 140 and typically carries 16
Lockheed Trident D5 missiles. Under government policy, British nuclear
submarines carry a maximum of 48 warheads. At least one of Britain's
four submarines is on patrol and ready to fire at any given time.
France's Le Triomphant carries 111 crew and 15 nuclear missiles, according to defense analysis group Jane's.
is the most severe incident involving a nuclear submarine since the
sinking of the Kursk in 2000 and the first time since the Cold War that
two nuclear-armed subs are known to have collided," said Kate Hudson,
head of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament….
Stephen Saunders, a retired British Royal Navy commodore and the
editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, said that while NATO countries let
each other know what general area of the Atlantic they are operating
in, neither submarine would have had a precise position for the other.
"This really shouldn't have happened at all," Saunders said. "It's a very serious incident, and I find it quite extraordinary."
Excuse me, I have to go fill up the basement with canned goods again.