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Nuclear Subs 'Collide In Ocean'

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the that's-gonna-look-bad-on-the-resume dept.

The Military 622

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."

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622 comments

Whoops (5, Funny)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872211)

Yeah cause then we'd have to read that shitty story that somebody is bound to post.

Re:Whoops (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872483)

Wait, didn't it read that one was French? I didn't know that anyone there could do more than cower under a table?

Re:Whoops (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872713)

Now that's not nice, the French are ALL cowards....granted apparently they aren't ALL sonar engineers either.

Re:Whoops (5, Funny)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872587)

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 (3, Funny)

k_187 (61692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872681)

MY subs get 40 rods to the hogshead and that's how I likes it.

Re:Whoops (1)

Barsteward (969998) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872603)

They drive on the opposite sides of the street.

But they are then going in the same direction if on opposite sides of the street whereas if they are on the same side they get to rub noses........

Re:Whoops (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872673)

I thought only North American countries had people driving on the "wrong" side of the street.

Re:Whoops (1)

Looke (260398) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872737)

They've been sailing the same oceans for far longer than they've been driving.

Re:Whoops (5, Informative)

homey of my owney (975234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872293)

The reality is that they now travel very quiet. The collision is just an illustration of that.

Re:Whoops (5, Interesting)

Sierran (155611) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Whoops (5, Funny)

ryanvm (247662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872395)

Do you know what you're talking about or did you just watch The Hunt for Red October?

Re:Whoops (3, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872521)

...or did you just watch The Hunt for Red October?

Actually it was Crimson Tide.

Re:Whoops (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872463)

I also like the way that neither claims to have seen the other. I guess it would be a bit on an "incident" if someone piped up how they were really playing chicken.

Re:Whoops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872621)

No ... but he did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night

Re:Whoops (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872627)

the fact that nobody outside the hull knows exactly where it is is their number one means of survivability.

Does the fact that nobody inside the hull knows exactly where it is help too?

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

Considering that 2 satellites just collided, astronomical odds don't seem that great.

Re:Whoops (5, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872675)

This is correct - a nuclear missile submarine's whole purpose is to hide. According to this writeup [theregister.co.uk] , the Admiralty and the US Navy compare notes on the subs' planned courses to avoid such incidents; we can only assume that the French are not privy to these planning sessions.

Perhaps Sir Humphrey Appleby spoke the truth about the true purpose behind Britain's independent deterrent?...

Re:Whoops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872385)

I would think that they were conducting a joint exercise, and both submarines were aware that the other was in the vicinity. The chance of a random low speed collision in the middle of the ocean is tiny.

There are inconsistencies in the story too. The British say the collision was at "very low" speed. The French say it occurred while coming back from a patrol, which would imply a reasonably fast cruising speed.

Oh James... (5, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872589)

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.

Euphemism? (5, Funny)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Euphemism? (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872383)

It is in so called 'quote marks' because it is a quotation.

Re:Euphemism? (1)

Sinning (1433953) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872425)

Is this where baby submarines come from?

Re:Euphemism? (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872693)

To differentiate it from nuclear subs that 'collide in mid-air'.

collision crisis (5, Funny)

Caue (909322) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

bad news (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872243)

I was just robbed :( Of my future. The perps were a hip black guy, a weasly white guy that looked constipated, and a slightly creepy cougar type woman. They stole 700 billion from me.

Subs don't always use SONAR (5, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (5, Insightful)

coulbc (149394) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Subs don't always use SONAR (1)

palmersperry (242842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872317)

Given that they where both SSBNs it seems somewhat unlikely one would be tracking the other. More likely one would track just long enough to get an idea of the other's course and speed and then head off at 90 degrees to that course.

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (1)

Jantastic (196238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872727)

Subs don't always use SONAR

Given that they where both SSBNs it seems somewhat unlikely one would be tracking the other

IANASubmariner, but I'm pretty sure they always use sonar and track surrounding vessels. Active sonar (transmitting sound actively), no. Passive sonar (listening only) on the other hand, of course they do that, all the time. And I can't think of any reasons not to track nearby vessels, except for the sensors which require specific targetting (an angle) when there is a more interesting target nearby.

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (1)

duffel (779835) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872537)

Con Sonar - Crazy Ivan!!

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872517)

According to the BBC, the subs may have been equipped with "too effective" anti-sonar devices.

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (5, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872657)

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."

Re:Subs don't always use SONAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872689)

Vanguard was d

All Alone (2, Insightful)

Sanat (702) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (5, Funny)

psyopper (1135153) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!!

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872367)

Stealth in this case means being quiet. Perhaps you want to outlaw the wearing of sneakers too because they don't make enough noise when people walk in them -- through international treaty, no less!

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (1)

psyopper (1135153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872451)

The idea has merit...

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (0)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872609)

I don't see how it has merit. There are a couple of posts above that discuss why submarines run quiet - it's precisely so they won't be detected.

Submarines are the last part of Mutual Assured Destruction. Even if one country manages to wipe out another's land-based missile launch capability, the submarine-based missiles still have a good chance of being launched in retaliation and finding their targets.

It's for that deterrent reason that I think making submarines easy to track would be a very bad idea. It would open up the possibility for one country to have confidence it could attack another with little threat of retaliation.

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872409)

This technology is too dangerous and needs to be outlawed through international treaty.

If nuclear submarines are outlawed, only outlaws will have nuclear submarines.

The US has the most by number, do you really think we'll let them all go?

You can't disarm without eliminating the reasons you armed in the first place. Global disarmament just means that whoever kept a gun hidden in their shorts now gets to dominate the globe.

Mutually Assured Destruction only works when it is Mutually Assured.

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (1)

psyopper (1135153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872499)

I would never presume to give up our nuclear submarines! I was inferring that Stealth Technology is is too dangerous! We need all the nukes we can get to fend off the enemy. However, if we hide all of our nukes, how will the enemy even know we have them? I say show them off!! By the way, the entire idea of my post was intended with the utmost sarcasm. Don't turn me into a troll!

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872635)

Global disarmament just means that whoever kept a gun hidden in their shorts now gets to dominate the globe.

So Porn stars shall inherit the earth?

Re:Stealth Technology is Too Dangerous (1, Troll)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872651)

Mutually Assured Destruction only works when it is Mutually Assured.

You miss part of the sentence, 'The Threat of' needs to be included.

And in case of guy's with a religious chip on their rag head even that doesn't work, they long to be destructed.

So be careful what you wish for, the old enemies mutually giving up on this type of potential destruction will only invite these even scarier opponents of humanity.

Crazy Ivans? (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872253)

Could one of them have been shadowing the other one... and suddenly one decided to make a quick random maneuver?

Re:Crazy Ivans? (3, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872419)

Both were ballistic missile submarines. For those, following other submarines at distances where crashes are a significant risk is not SOP.

Shouldn't that be... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872433)

Crazy Jean or Jon?

Depending on who was doing the actual maneuvering?

in the immortal words from Star trek.... (5, Funny)

pig-power (1069288) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872259)

Chekov "where are your nukleer wessels??"

Odds ? (4, Interesting)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872263)

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 ? (4, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872335)

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:Odds ? (-1, Flamebait)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872439)

Russians used to do what were called "Crazy Ivans." If you are running at high speed, you can't hear squat, so to check for chasers, they'd do a 180 course change and run back down their track. You can't get precise position using passive means--there is always room for error, so the chasing sub would move out of the way, quickly and often noisily telling the Russian sub it was being followed.

If the Russian didn't detect the follower, the evasion tactic was enough to make the following captain cautious.

good times, good times.

Re:Odds ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872705)

In any large scale politically driven event, human intelligence never rises above that level. Look at political posturing. National pride. It's all playground bullshit, even the reasons for wars are always stupid.

Conficker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872401)

My money's on conficker. That's what you get, when you run windows on your nuclear submarines!

Re:Odds ? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872417)

I suppose it also depends on WHERE they collided. Certainly out somewhere in the atlantic it's not going to happen unless they're playing tag or hide n seek, but near a port there's a choke point of where you'd prefer to go if you're a sub. Get enough of them running through the same small area all the time and eventually the odds will get you.

Need to think in 3-D here too. It's not just a longitude/latitude that have to coincide, they have to match depth too. It's like a mid-air collision. And I suppose my point is, it becomes a lot more likely if you're flying near an airport...

Re:Odds ? (2, Interesting)

TheBracket (307388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872481)

I'd imagine that it is made more likely by the topology of the ocean floor itself; there are probably good corridors through which to travel undetected (especially in 'friendly' water where it's unlikely that the enemy have detector arrays). If both sides are using the same ocean floor map, it seems that the odds of a collision go up considerably if there's an obvious corridor to traverse/hide in.

Re:Odds ? (2, Informative)

bentcd (690786) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872467)

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 ? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872503)

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

About the same as the chance of two satellites colliding in space.

Re:Odds ? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872571)

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

I'd guess the odds are astronomical. The Atlantic Ocean is huge, subs aren't. They were almost definitely up to something. Maybe some kind of exercise that went wrong.

Re:Odds ? (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872691)

The other possibility is that we have a few orders of magnitude more submarines than we let on....

You heard nothing, I didn't write this.

It's not called the Silent Service for nothing. (2, Insightful)

Camaro (13996) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872287)

It's my understanding subs tend to listen for what's out there because using one's own sonar would broadcast your own position to the enemy. If both these subs were running in this way I can see how a collision would occur. It's happened before and is bound to happen again.

Thank god for BBC (2, Funny)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872297)

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!

Re:Thank god for BBC (0)

Mascot (120795) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872391)

no dolphins were murdered in the making of this accident!

Indeed. Though I don't personally think submarines should swerve to avoid dolphins, they followed proper Greenpeace etiquette. A dolphin's life is worth more than a million subs!

Despite each being equipped with sonar? (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872309)

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.

Re:Despite each being equipped with sonar? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872539)

I think your tone and your conclusions are way off. Paranoia is no way to deal with nuclear risks, but neither is being glib. Allies should not be crashing nuclear reactors into each other by accident. If extra precautions are necessary to prevent a recurrence, then they should at least be considered, even if there is some impact on e.g. the realism of training exercises. There is a history of nuclear warheads being lost due to crashed subs and bombers, and it's definitely something we want to avoid.

Re:Despite each being equipped with sonar? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872695)

Allies should not be crashing nuclear reactors into each other by accident.

Drivers should not be crashing containers of flammable liquids into each other by accident. Let's ban cars!

If extra precautions are necessary to prevent a recurrence, then they should at least be considered, even if there is some impact on e.g. the realism of training exercises.

You'd prefer they used unrealistic training exercises which will leave them unprepared in the event of an emergency?

There is a history of nuclear warheads being lost due to crashed subs and bombers, and it's definitely something we want to avoid.

While I agree in principle, in practice the only way to win is not to play.

Until that day comes, we're going to have a need for stealth.

In practice, the only people who can afford to retrieve nukes off the bottom of the ocean are people who already have them, so I'm not sure it's as serious a problem as you make it out to be.

Anyway, like I said, the ONLY way to stop this from happening is to get rid of the nuke subs. The whole point of them is to avoid detection, so things like this WILL happen given a long enough timescale. Forget about the issue of joint training exercises, all first strike subs have the same purpose, so they will by definition be occupying similar spaces. Just like most mid-air collisions happen near airports, most mid-ocean collisions will happen where everyone else wants to be.

We're not getting rid of the nuke subs or compromising their stealth, so if you want to get rid of nuke subs, work for world peace. Don't work on nuclear disarmament, because it's a misguided goal. Nuclear stockpiling is a symptom, not a disease.

Re:Despite each being equipped with sonar? (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872721)

Paranoia is no way to deal with nuclear risks, but neither is being glib.

How about being imlib or gobject instead? Would that be better?

Re:Despite each being equipped with sonar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872647)

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

This is what happens when you use ordinary materials for submarines. If they, for example, had been made entirely of fermions, and the British sub was spin up and the French sub was spin down than two (and only two) subs could occupy the same space. If, however, they had been made entirely of bosons, then an arbitrary number of them could occupy the same space without incident.

We're just not sufficiently advanced, I guess, for safety...

Well, duh. (4, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

bound to happen (4, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872371)

Well, this was bound to happen. I hear things are getting pretty cramped down there in the ocean.

look at the bright side of the story, (0, Flamebait)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872373)

The french didn't surrender !

Re:look at the bright side of the story, (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872501)

Yeah but look

HMS VANGUARD
Launched in 1992
One of four British submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles
Displacement (submerged) 16,000 tonnes, 150m (492ft) long
Can carry 48 nuclear warheads on a maximum of 16 missiles
A two-year refit was completed in 2007 as part of a £5bn contract
Maximum submerged speed of 25 knots
Due to be replaced in 2024

LE TRIOMPHANT
Launched in 1994
One of four French ballistic missile nuclear-powered submarines (SSBN)
Displacement (submerged) 14,000 tonnes, 138m (452ft) long
Can carry 16 ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads
110 crew, including 15 officers
Submerged speed over 25 knots

Our subs were lauched first and are bigger and longer. In your face, snail eaters.

Same side (5, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Using Windows..? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872403)

Aren't the French and British navy both using MS Windows now..? Just noticing some recent trouble with the French Air-force related to this... Perhaps they mistook the "sonar screensaver" for the real thing..?

All i am going to say is: (1)

Rusty pipe (1471075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872411)

Just one ping!

We brake for nobody.

I'm an oldfag breaking rules 1&2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26872421)

If you can't triforce and you havent been butthurt by boxxybabee visit /b/ today and say Raul654 from Wikipedia sent you! /b/ [4chan.org]

Bright Thinking (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872449)

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.

Dang! (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872459)

Ships are supposed to pass in the night!

They must be pretty silent though... Red October eat your heart out.?

Nulcear Subs -- my, how the Big Boys love to play (0, Redundant)

flajann (658201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872473)

Nuclear Subs -- my, how the Big Boys love to play with their little toys. Except these "little toys" each have the capacity to take out many cities, and Nuclear Bombs are indiscriminate little killers.

From a technological standpoint, I find it rather amusing that the anti-sonar systems on both subs, according to the article, worked "a little too well." Well, duh -- they did as their engineers designed them to do.

Except, one thing puzzles me -- if your Sonar is switched on, the other sub should pick that up. So the sonar systems of both subs must've been running quiet. So the anti-sonar systems have nothing to do with the collision. So why does the article mentions them? Did I miss something?

Must be the reporters. They can never seem to get the story right; nor do they seem able to catch the obvious flaws in what they report.

In short: they're just as incompetent as the Big Boys...

Gee, I feel so much safer now...

Re:Nulcear Subs -- my, how the Big Boys love to pl (1)

Cjstone (1144829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872655)

I'd assume that both of the subs were using passive sonar, probably towed-arrays. You typically don't go active unless you're already in a shooting fight and need the best possible firing solution against a threat that's running silent. I don't know if Boomers have passive sonar as good as that of an attack submarine, but it's probably pretty close. All this incident proves is that the engineers did their jobs well and made the sub nearly undetectable by passive means.

Re:Nulcear Subs -- my, how the Big Boys love to pl (1)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872667)

>if your Sonar is switched on, the other sub should pick that up.

Not necessarily. Some sonar is passive - my company (well, the company I work for...) designs hull and towed-array sonar which basically just listens to the noise in the water. Pinging helps find things, but the idea is if you just hang a bunch of hydrophones out your tail end, you can pick up other subs, especially as they get close.

Cold war icon collision series entries, please (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872489)

So, we've had a US vs. Russian sat, now a UK vs. French ICBM sub, what are the next cold war icons scheduled to collide?

This is nothing new (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872509)

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....

Like where else were they going to collide? (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872523)

The dessert? In the air? Perhaps in outer space...

Should have just read "Two submarines collide"...anyone with half a brain could deduce that the collision occurred in the water. :P

Re:Like where else were they going to collide? (1)

CarlosHawes (1256490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872593)

Was this perhaps one of those Royal Navy subs that the Brits recently retrofitted to run Microsoft Windows? Just wondering. Maybe the sonar station BSOD'd.

Re:Like where else were they going to collide? (3, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872619)

The dessert?

I find it hard to find an ice-cream dish with sufficient room for one nuclear missile submarine, let alone two.

Re:Like where else were they going to collide? (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872665)

Well, if you're going to be an anal retentive prick about it, the Mediterranian Sea; the Black Sea; the Baltic Sea; the Sea of Japan; etc. The article summart title (the only part of the summary that was less specific than "the Atlantic") specified "ocean". This also suggests that you didn't even bother reading the body of the summary before commenting. Even on Slashdot that's pretty craptastic.

Chasing Red October (1)

Alarash (746254) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872559)

Somebody played Ivan the Mad once too many.

From the article (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872567)

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

The problem with this sort of overblown rhetoric is that it uses up the effect of these words. Had both submarines detonated all their warheads, that would have been "a nuclear nightmare of the highest order". This incident is just part of having a Navy. As Grace Hopper said, "A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for".

Video Cameras (0)

psergiu (67614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872585)

Why the darn subs don't have at lease one IR camera in front ? Come-on people. Even Nemo's sub had portholes.

Re:Video Cameras (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872719)

Maybe it's just because IR doesn't propagate in water ?

This is easy to explain (2, Funny)

XSpud (801834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872591)

Clearly these subs were tracking the 2 satellites that collided last week http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/11/2318226 [slashdot.org] . The six day delay can be explained by the difference in speed of a nuclear sub compared to a satellite.

A mistaken assumption... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872633)

"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."

More likely, this points out that British and French subs have inadequate DETECTION capabilities. Couldn't find each other to the point of a collision.

Not knowing there's something out there a mile away I can understand, that's the state of the art. But a hundred meters away gets more intriguing. That's probably the minimum distance for evading a collision, and assumes the captains don't both make the wrong move. They ought to have heard something at that distance.

I suspect the damage radius of modern torpedoes is in excess of a hundred meters, especially if the torps are nuclear, but they sure don't need to be. This incident seems to me to point out that these boats didn't know each other were out there, more because they couldn't detect the other, and most likely because they aren't that good at finding other boats.

I wonder if an L.A. class boat in the area, watching the action... hehe...

Passed like ships in the night (2, Funny)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 5 years ago | (#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".

sub go crunk (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872645)

Yeah, this makes absolutely bugger-all sense. The American/Russian collisions during the Cold War were subs deliberately playing cat and mouse. The Russians were typically noisier than the Americans and the skippers on those boats knew they could have a tail and not know it. The "Crazy Ivan" maneuver was a rapid turning of a boat to so they could hear past the prop wash of their boat. Of course, this is like slamming on the brakes when being tailgated.

So it makes sense that attack subs could get in scrapes like this but ballistic missiles subs deliberately seek out the most isolated patches of water imaginable and avoid any contact that comes near. It really does stretch credulity to imagine that there could be a one-in-a-million collision between two such vessels.

Usually there's a good reason for collisions in what one would otherwise imagine to be vast, open stretches. In space, in the air, on the water, there's reasons. It usually comes down to traffic funneled into a confined area for necessary, understandable reasons. Airports by their very nature require large numbers of aircraft to operate in close proximity. I would be surprised to hear of a mid-air collision over the Atlantic but not in the least to hear of one above a major airport. Ocean travel is constrained by geography and economics and there are certain lanes that are the most economical to travel, thus increasing the odds of multiple ships being in the area. But like airports, harbors represent the greatest concentration of ships and thus the greatest danger of collision. In space there may seem to be a whole lot of, well, space, but the useful orbits are actually more constricted than one might imagine. Therefore it becomes less a matter of astronomical impossibility and more a matter of statistical inevitability.

I suppose that this very well could be a case of very, very, very long odds, two boomers bumping into each other in the middle of nowhere but it remains suspiciously odd.

Nuclear Subs (0, Redundant)

Aerynvala (1109505) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872669)

For when playing "chicken" in cars gets to be boring.

Dear US and French Navy (1)

drewsup (990717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872697)

How are those new stealth mods working out for you? Sincerely Your Military Industrial Complex Contractor

The French response: (5, Funny)

hampton (209113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872711)

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

Chicken of the sea! (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26872725)

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.

Keep up with politics (2, Funny)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.
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