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back to article Brit, French nuke subs collide - fail to 'see' each other

British and French nuclear missile submarines collided earlier this month beneath the Atlantic, according to reports. Much is being made of the fact that the two subs "failed to see each other", but this is actually quite normal. The story appears to have first broken with a report in the Sun, stating that HMS Vanguard has been …

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Joke

Must have been the Fwenchies' fault.

After all, everyone knows the right way to do things is to d(r)ive on the left.

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Got to Say it

Paint it Yellow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Happy

Law of unintended consequences

It occurs to me that precise navigation aids may now make this sort of thing more likely. If both subs are plotting a similar, metre-accurate course in opposite directions, then the odds of meeting are greatly increased.

Still a bit unlucky to be at exactly the same depth, though...

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How big is the f*****ing ocean

and they still hit each other ? Obviously someone was driving on the wrong side of the 'road' methinks - and it wasn't the British !!!!

Either that or soemone is letting a girl drive nuclear subs (had to say it!!!)

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Ru
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Small place, the atlantic

How on earth did they hit each other anyway? Given the enormous amount of space available and the tiny size of the protagonists, what are the chances that their courses should intersect like that?

If they weren't both missile subs, I'd expect that one was trying to track and follow the other. But this seems totally baffling.

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Anonymous Coward

Coincidence?

What are the chances of two such subs (there aren't that many in service) colliding in all that water? And what are the chances of that happening in the same month that two satellites collided, in all that space?

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Dan
Joke

Beneath the atlantic?

Some new kind of sub with tunnelling devices perhaps?

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Black Helicopters

This reminds me of

The old urban myth of the US Battleship and the lighthouse - http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/l/lighthouseandaircraftcarrier.htm

Nice to see that Entente Cordial is still holding strong

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Tom

What are the odds...

Still, what are the odds of two submarines coincidentally colliding in a body of water that big. After all Britain and France both only have one submarine at sea at any one time. The only way they could have hit would be if they were patrolling the exact same route, which is pretty likely since the British and French submarines share patrol routes?

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Black Helicopters

Understand they won't see each other, but...

...isn't the Atlantic Ocean rather large? So large that the odds of two ICBM boats hitting each other are pretty low? Unless of course there's actually a much smaller volume of navigable ocean these subs can actually operate in than the various navies let on. Either that or the RN and the French were actually on exercise together, but neither wants to admit it for some reason.

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Joke

this would never have happened...

...if they'd all been carrying RFID cards!

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Trench Warfare?

Subs tend to run in natural canyons and trenches in the ocean floors to help avoid detection and mask their movements. If two subs were both doing this in the same area then the risk of a collision would be far greater.

Despite 'All that water' there are far fewer canyons and trenches.

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Interesting

Let's face it, the most likely reason for SSBN's to collide on open ocean is that they were part of the same exercise. Perhaps we will shortly hear of the "merging" of the British and French deterrents into a "EU" deterrent...doubtless run by the French :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Moving

If no-one knows where they and they're undetectable then why do the subs need to move at all?

Just find a nice empty patch of ocean and stay still for two months. The Atlantic is a big place!

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Stop

Co-incidence - I think not.....

Their (claimed) inability to detect each other is explicable, Lewis, but their proximity is not. Given the vast size of the ocean, the odds that two submarines would even be in the same square kilometre at the same time is pretty slim, never mind passing through the same 100m square at the same depth. Either there are environmental/operating factors at work which vastly reduce the realistic range of places that an SSBN might be found at any given moment, or someone is being cute. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if one of the two skippers was playing at being a fast-attack boat, and got in a little too close while trying to track the other one. Personally I suspect that discouraging aggressive tracking exercises is the real reason for this traffic control system.

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Joke

"...But, in case Signals can neither be...

... seen or perfectly understood, no Captain can do very wrong if he places his Ship alongside that of an Enemy..."

Nelson, Victory, off Cadiz, 9th October, 1805.

http://www.wtj.com/archives/nelson/1805_10c.htm

That's not a collision, that's commitment! :P

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Black Helicopters

Bright Idea..

Magnetometers for collision avoidance..

(oh really http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_anomaly_detector)

Wonder if this was a 'we can hear something lets get closer' incident... seems they were not at speed..

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Coat

FFS

Just because there's a whole Atlantic out there doesn't mean we're likely to partol all of it, unless we're looking for those renegade jellyfish El Reg reported on a while back. I can see far too much fuss being made over this, of course they're not going to see each other, they're built to be undetetectable and of course they're going to be within fender bender distance of one another as the countries who own them share a border!!

Mine's the one with "The Bluffer's Guide to Media Hysteria" in the pocket

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Paris Hilton

chicken?

This takes the game of chicken to a whole new level - but who will think of the innocent cod? And its nice to know CND is alive, well and as irrelevant as ever!

Paris, as she has a couple of torpedoes tucked away

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Heart

Thanks again...

for cutting through the popular churnalism to the facts, El Reg!

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Flame

Size of the ocean?

It matters not.

The amount of space in said ocean where it is strategic to be, or is a good place for a bit of snooping is finite (that includes depth). It is no surprise to have two subs in the same area trying to do the same thing.

So the likes of Adrian can leave off the racist and sexist bullcrap.

When you factor in the number of missions and how long such missions have been running, it is more of a surprise that these things do not happen more often.

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Flame

Smell-o-scan

I bet they could have smelt the french coming.

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Thumb Up

Bravo

Any chance you could call the BBC ande Sun and explain to them the realities of submarine warfare, as they still have their knickers in a twist!!

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Ash

lat/long co-ords picked by human

The sea is still massive and it's impressive coincidence they collided.

My guess would be that both captains happened to choose the same lat/long course as a whole number.

Ie humans are more likely to pick 52N / 33W than 52.1432N / 33.2542W as a destination... so both subs end up in exactly the same spot... if you catch my drift.

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Alien

Re: Coincidence?

"What are the chances of two such subs (there aren't that many in service) colliding in all that water? And what are the chances of that happening in the same month that two satellites collided, in all that space?" .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 16th February 2009 11:49 GMT

Seems like there's a bit of reorganisation/realignment going on, AC. Maybe the MOD have finally woken up to the NeuReal Games which can so easily be Played 42 Win Win rather than them always being handed the S***** end of the Stick.

What say you, Lewis? Would you Dare 42 Care and Speculate, as Facts are rarer than Fiction nowadays.

And who is in Control of CyberSpace Command and Control for Mighty Blighty? Anybody who knows what they should be doing ....... or just some Fat Cat Cuckoo Feather Nester, without a Clue?

If you paid more than £7,777,777 for ITs Lead, you wuz robbed, Good and Proper ....... for that is the Going Rate, although that can Immediately Jump/Quantum Leap to £88,888,888, if and when you Compound an Ignorance Omission with an Arrogant Appointment/DisAppointment which subsequently needs to be Redressed.

Any No Control leaves Everything Vulnerable to Catastrophic Meltdown and Unstoppable Systems Virtual TakeOvers and MakeOvers.

And that would make £88,888,888 seem like the Networking Bargain of the 21st Century.

I trust that is not ambiguous with those very specific quotes should anyone ask for rough costing figures.

And there is Absolutely Nothing at all to stop a Very Canny Private Sector Investor, from anywhere in the world, from landing AI Lead Position in such InterNetional Affairs.

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Happy

zut alors!

I'd be very interested to hear the respective comments from the crews afterwards. Did they surface so they could shout at each other? "Hop off you frogs! Clear off Jacques Delors" "no-eh-oh, mais you get out of ze way, you English seamen-peoples, zis is our ocean de la mer, we were 'ere au premiere, we like very much!"

<sigh> perhaps if we constructed a giant metal badger....

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Mo

NATO

given that Sarkozy is due to reverse de Gaulle's decision and push the French military back into NATO's command full-time, I suspect it's only a matter of time before France is sharing said joint manoeuvre C&C systems.

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Bronze badge

New deterrents

Zeppelin carried submarines?

The limiting factor is the range of the missiles. In the days of the first Polaris boats, the seas between Greenland and Norway must have been very busy.

Operating depths can also be limited by the command and control problem. These missile carriers need to be able to receive orders.

But it's still a huge amount of ocean.

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I love my sub

A cousin of mine used to be on the subs. He told a story (don't know if it's true or if he was telling tall tales) about a "close encounter".

They had been running undersea for a while - somewhere in the South Atlantic. They were not on alert specifically, but it was a couple of years after the Falklands conflict, so they tended to be a bit careful.

They were running quietly, when the whole sub shook violently - the immediate reaction was that they had hit something. They turned on sonar and detected an object - quickly identified as a whale. It appeared that the creature had taken a shine to them and was rubbing itself along their hull.

Apparently, the whale followed the sub for a few hours, and they were bumped into a couple of times. Subsequently, it was suggested that the whale had parasites on it's body (apparently quite common) and it was brushing aginst the sub to try to get rid of some of them.

They nicknamed the whale "Randy Andy" (hint: think of the Queen's second son). Lots of really quite unrepeatable jokes followed and when they finally got to shore, the crew all bought blow up toys shaped like whales to take with them as they toured the night spots.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Small place, the atlantic

So the old Russian gripe about the torpedo on Kursk exploading after a collision with something may actually be not far from truth. Something that has happen once may happen again.

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Pirate

Everyone knows...

our nuclear deterrent is to keep the French at bay.

Them French arrrr just Pirates!

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Tim

Er,

Why don't they fit them with a bell?

Tim#3

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Boffin

i would have been more worried

if the french sub HAD seen our sub come on people they are built not to be seen!

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Pirate

Re: Coincidence?

Well, if they were both using Window$ for $ub$, and the Cap'ns both said, "Let's drive to some random place", and 'doze came up with coordinates, ... no one here should be surprised.

They were both looking for something. Treasure, obviously, and from the ensuing fracas, I'd say they found it. But what sort of treasure?

Doubloons. (All of them).

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Boffin

Not so improbable...

It seems that there are relatively few suitable places for the 'Strategic Nuclear Deterrent' to lurk around waiting for the order to launch, and those most suitable areas are relatively densely populated with nuclear subs from all countries, who don't park up in case they are detected, but slowly mooch around as quietly as possible, and of course, a whole lot of other subs who are busily trying to detect them. So a sort of sub-Atlantic M25 really.

According to a military bod on the BBC such collisions are 'quite common'.

Hmmmm....

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Bronze badge

m .02

i reckon they were cocking about tbh !!

got think of the film all aboard !!!

Need to get the tattoo welcome aboard !

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Joke

I hope they were not equiped

WITH

Guidance systems running on VISTA

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Black Helicopters

Damn French

I've visited France many times and seen the quality of their drivers so I'm not surprised at this.

There will have been no danger to the nukes on board as they will only be armed if the Americans allow it.

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Paris Hilton

Recent collisions

So two subs collide at sea. And didnt two Russian satellites collide recently too in space...

Its looking quite good for the hadron collider isnt it? Oh no, thats broken.

Why the icon? Coming wildly together in this way just makes me think....

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Anonymous Coward

Size of the ocean

Subs often track each other, and Navys often engage in exercises with each other.

That's probably the most likely explanation for their being in proximity to each other in a large expanse of ocean.

As for not detecting each other? Their anti-sonar systems ( if they exist, which I'm sure they do) are evidentally far too effective at reducing the signature!

Or may be they were operating in passive mode listening mode and been in a blind spot. Who knows.

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Pirate

End of ze world!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZMwKPmsbWE

Bought that time aye chaps!

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Pirate

The french have a nuke sub?

Of course the two submarines were probably both pointing in the same direction, most likely apparently heading in the same direction its just that the French one was in front and in common with all other french military vehicles, was inclined to suddenly stop and reverse at high speed.

Mines the one with the parot on the sholder and the wooden leg in the pocket

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Anonymous Coward

vanguard

has a twisted prop shaft, so she has to travel at less than 8 knots in order to be able to remain undetected.

above that speed, vanguard is a noisey boat.

"on station", the patrol spead is around 2-4 knots.

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Anonymous Coward

cat and mouse

mmm, sounds like a game of cat and mouse went a little wrong. It's happened before, and i'm sure it will happen again. Just seems that they want everyone to know about it on this occasion.

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Boffin

New sensors?

I can think of two easy ways to see if a Frenchie is sneaking along side you:

1) Use a chemical sensor to 'smell' out the cheese

2) Use a camera to look for the large white flag furled up on the conning tower ready for quick deployment

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Ian
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@Nick Palmer

Damn right Sir, break out the grog!

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Good point, Ash

I guess we can blame the accuracy of GPS for them both being at exactly the same spot.

Though I'm more inclined to believe Simon Ball's explanation that at least one of the subs detected the other and accidentally rammed it while trying to get closer.

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Alert

@amanfromMars

What the hell are you talking about??

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Coat

I reckon....

Simon Ball has this spot on and I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of the boats was also trying to get hull shots for the bragging tights.

Oh and another copy of "The Bluffer's Guide to Media Hysteria" for me too.

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Alert

Collisions

Last Wednesday it was fighter planes... On Thursday it was satellites... Now nuclear submarines... What next?

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