Monday, February 16, 2009

Fender-bender in the Atlantic

I wonder if they both had insurance? From

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British Royal Navy nuclear submarine and its French equivalent collided while on operations in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, defense ministries in Paris and London confirmed Monday.

Both vessels, HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant, were armed with nuclear warheads and suffered damage but were able to return to port under their own power following the collision.

"Two "SNLE" (nuclear submarines), one French and the other British, were, a few days ago, on standard patrols in the Atlantic. They briefly came in contact in a very slow speed while they were immersed," the French Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

"There is no casualty or injury among the crew. Neither the nuclear deterrent mission nor the nuclear security have been compromised."

In an earlier press release issued on February 6, the Ministry of Defense said the vessel's sonar dome had been damaged in a collision. The vessel was able to return to its base at Ile Longue in Brittany, northwest France, accompanied by a frigate.

The UK's Ministry of Defence also confirmed the incident. In a statement, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathan Band said the collision occurred during "routine national patrols."

"Both submarines remained safe and no injuries occurred. We can confirm that the capability remained unaffected and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety," Band said.

HMS Vanguard returned to its home base at Faslane in Scotland on February 14. The UK's Sun newspaper reported that dents and scrapes were visible on the vessel's hull as it was towed into dock by a tugboat.

Both the UK and French nuclear deterrent operations depend on complete secrecy, despite both countries' membership of NATO. But naval analyst Richard Cobbold told CNN that procedures would be in place to ensure that French and British submarines were routinely kept apart.

"Either one of these submarines was doing something different or somebody made a mistake -- but we don't know that," Cobbold said.

You would think that, in an ocean as big as the Atlantic, both subs would not collide with each other under the sea. But they did. You would also think that both the British and French military commands would coordinate their plans to keep their nuclear submarines apart from each other. In this case, they didn't. Or some big SNAFU took place that both countries never expected. My guess is one sub was driving on the left, while the other sub was driving on the right, and they both collided into each other.

Or perhaps both of the subs collided with each other in this fashion:

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