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 …

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  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    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.

  2. Steve

    Got to Say it

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

  3. James Pickett
    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...

  4. Adrian

    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!!!)

  5. Ru
    Stop

    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.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  7. Dan
    Joke

    Beneath the atlantic?

    Some new kind of sub with tunnelling devices perhaps?

  8. Mark Lockwood Silver badge
    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

  9. 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?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  11. Alex
    Joke

    this would never have happened...

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

  12. Trevor Watt

    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.

  13. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    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 :-(

  14. Anonymous Coward
    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!

  15. Simon Ball
    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.

  16. Nick Palmer
    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

  17. Parax
    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..

  18. Adam Salisbury
    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

  19. Geoff Spick
    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

  20. Chris Lewis
    Heart

    Thanks again...

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

  21. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  22. Matthew Smith
    Flame

    Smell-o-scan

    I bet they could have smelt the french coming.

  23. Mike Fortey
    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!!

  24. 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.

  25. amanfromMars Silver badge
    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.

  26. Tawakalna
    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....

  27. 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.

  28. Dave Bell

    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.

  29. Tony

    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.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  31. P. Lee Silver badge
    Pirate

    Everyone knows...

    our nuclear deterrent is to keep the French at bay.

    Them French arrrr just Pirates!

  32. Tim

    Er,

    Why don't they fit them with a bell?

    Tim#3

  33. Yorkshirepudding
    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!

  34. Luther Blissett
    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).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    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....

  36. Lionel Baden

    m .02

    i reckon they were cocking about tbh !!

    got think of the film all aboard !!!

    Need to get the tattoo welcome aboard !

  37. Paul Young
    Joke

    I hope they were not equiped

    WITH

    Guidance systems running on VISTA

  38. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  39. floweracre
    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....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  41. Geeks and Lies
    Pirate

    End of ze world!

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

    Bought that time aye chaps!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    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

  43. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  45. Dave_H
    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

  46. Ian
    Thumb Up

    @Nick Palmer

    Damn right Sir, break out the grog!

  47. Grozbat

    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.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @amanfromMars

    What the hell are you talking about??

  49. M Anton
    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.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Collisions

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

  51. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    The French Navy.

    According to their official statement, their lads "...did not see or hear anything."*

    Presumably: <reverb> BANG!!!! GRRRRIIIIINNNND, SCREEEEECCCCCCHHHHHH, CLATTER, CLATTER, TINKLE </reverb> passed them by then.....

    Mine's the one with the panel beating hammer and ticket to Faslane in the pocket.

    *Presumably they'll get sued for copyright violation by Arsene Wenger here.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Nuff said

    Are these the same subs that had a software 'upgrade' to have winoze as the (nearly) operating system?

    Capt Birdseye:- "Oh!!!! new software, lets run the demo navigation program and see how it works"

    Paris, she like subamrines because there are full of ........ Oh! Sorry, you've heard this one before.

  53. James
    Pirate

    Ocean is vast, knowledge is tiny

    The Atlantic Ocean is indeed a vast place. How much of it do you think is accurately mapped?

    While the subs themselves won't be using active sonar, that doesn't stop other folks using it. A nuclear sub in open water (even hundreds of feet down) would be pretty obvious and thus pretty useless. The subs will keep to trenches and other features of the sea floor to camouflage their presence. With only a limited amount of the ocean floor mapped accurately enough to steer a dirty great nuclear sub safely through, the volume of sea actually likely to contain a sub is really rather tiny compared to the whole. Collisions aren't unlikely in this scenario, hence the US/UK cooperation...

    Skull and crossbones cos they're nautical...

  54. Alex
    Coat

    "You arrogant ass, you killed us!"

    "Come on Big D, fly!"

    "One ping Vasilly, one ping only if you pleash.."

    "Captain, We're cavitating!"

    "Right full rudder, reversh shtarboard engine!"

    "It remindsh me of the heady daysh of Shputnik and Yuri Gagarin when the world trembled at the shound of our rocketsh. Now they will tremble again - at the shound of our shilence. The order ish: engage the shilent drive"

    ..and more "Красный Октябрь" (Red October) quotes.

    Mine's the one with the DVD and Book in the pockets..

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    An ex crewman of such beasts that I happen to know

    thinks that we are getting an *extremely* edited version of what happened!

  56. John Bayly
    Thumb Down

    @All the people saying the Atlantic is large

    Top marks for observation, none for common sense. Odds are they both knew the other submarine was in the area because of intel, it being planned, or simply because they heard the other (speed run, somebody dropped something).

    Also, France and England are apparently rather close to each other, on the same stretch of ocean no less. It's surprising this doesn't happen more often - it certainly happened fairly often during the cold war.

    Seems we picked up a good few readers from the Sun's website. Next they'll be saying our submarines have to make enough noise so that they'll be heard - muppets.

    Hopefully the commander doesn't get in shit for this. I don't want our servicemen to pussy-foot around everything.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    A thought

    Why not add a window to the sub? - and have a watchman keeping an eye out! That should help to reduce the odds of collision from the traffic!

  58. Alex
    Coat

    @amanfrommars

    Yeah.. what he said..

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Final scene in James Bond

    On the wall behind M's DESK. It's night. Moneypenny sits across

    from M, with a steno pad.

    M: Moneypenny, take the following release:

    A Royal Navy nuclear submarine has been involved in a collision in the middle of the Atlantic. The crash between Faslane-based HMS Vanguard and French submarine Le Triomphant, is believed to have occurred on February 3 or 4.

    (pauses)

    At present, local authorities believe the incident was an accident.

    <Cut to James Bond nobbing the French spy>

    <End Credits>

  60. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Pirate

    RE: Smell-o-scan

    "I bet they could have smelt the french coming." Lol, I bet you could smell both crews afterwards! Just imagine what it must have been like - you're cruising along calmly in your tincan at a depth where your puny body would either get squashed to a pulp by pressure or get frozen by the cold, and all of a sudden there is an almighty big bang! Bet they all needed new pants!

  61. Gaius

    no coincidence

    They'd have been up to some blackops lark like transferring missiles while at sea.

  62. Mike Richards Silver badge
    Joke

    Couldn't they...

    ...have a lookout?

  63. billy no mates
    Thumb Down

    Windows for war ships

    maybe it was a double infection of :-

    1. windows for warships (subs) installed in the British and French navy.

    2. conficker virus outbreak

    who knows ..........

  64. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    The question is not how did this happen...

    ...but what is the point of maintaining these redundant weapons?

    Considering how cash-strapped Britain is at the minute, I cannot think of a single scenario in which we'd need a nuclear ICBM-equipped sub at sea.

    If we mothballed them and only took them out if a) relations with a large number of nuclear-capable enemies deteriated and b) relations with all nuclear-capable allies also deteriated, I wonder how much we'd save. My guess is lots.

    In fact, my initial reaction to this story is disappointment that our government haven't already quietly mothballed them without telling anyone.

  65. Maliciously Crafted Packet

    The French drive like lunatics.

    No respect for the rules of the road, their own safety or that of anyone else's. Why expect their seamanship to be any different.

    I speak from experience. Once had a French girlfriend, very nice young lady she was too. But you wouldn't what to be a passenger in a car she was driving.

    Come to think of it last time we spoke Im sure she said something about joining Forces sous-marines.

  66. Ted Treen
    Paris Hilton

    STBO

    Having seen newsreel of Parisian drivers, I concur that it's obviously the Froggies' fault,

    Paris, as 1) The name and 2) She knows a lot about seamen...

  67. John Browne
    Thumb Up

    In defence of the BBC

    This morning I heard a News 24 presenter say words to the effect of "At least their cloaking devices were working".

    Years ago, the Beeb had regular coverage of this sort of thing. A brief extract goes: "Left hand down a bit, Mr. Pertwee....Ooh, clang"

    Love it, so long as nobody was hurt and no nuke stuff got loose. Valuable lessons may be learned.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Whoops pardonnez moi!

    Lewis- you have not considered the possibility that one sub reversed into the other. Suggest urgent fitment of reversing system like that on Security vans.

    "This submarine is reversing ..honk honk..this submarine is...."

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huh

    And where was SOSUS, presumably not able to pick up either sub?

  70. Dave
    Pirate

    Collision

    Well, at least they didn't collide with a mountain.

    Dave

  71. Martin Silver badge

    In my day..

    We used to have a dolphin with a red flag swimming in front of them to stop this sort of thing.

  72. mr.K
    Coat

    Propability

    As I tried to teach my students during my brief stay at an university:

    -The sum of all improbable outcomes is rather likely.

    The chances of winning the lottery is rather slim, but the chances of somebody winning it is great. The chances of the only French nuclear missile submarine colliding with the only British counterpart this month is slim. That they during their entire lifespan will collide is a tad greater. That at some point during history of nuclear missile submarines that one will collide with another or something else is likely. The chances of something highly unlikely, but completely unrelated will occur about the same time, i.e. two satellites colliding, is also rather likely. For instance, I have concluded that it is likely that somebody will win the lottery. I also feel confident that somebody else will win another lottery somewhere in the world the same week.

    It is fairly certain that I am about to leave. The chances are that I'll get my coat right before I do so.

  73. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: @amanfromMars

    Are you pair new here? amanfromMars is our pet weirdo. It won't bite you if you don't annoy it and it probably keeps other trolls at bay, in the same way that having a cat stops other cats from pooing on your lawn (allegedly).

  74. Simon Ball

    @AC

    SOSUS doesn't provide data to submarines at sea in realtime. The most you'll get from SOSUS is "probable submarine within a X km of your current position as of time/date". In any case, boomers in particular barely communicate at all during patrol.

    Besides, SOSUS is not inherently any more effective than the systems mounted aboard subs/ships. Modern boomers are built to be impossible to detect - even by their makers.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    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."

    There was a documentary on National Geographic (and presumably shown on other channels) about this. The suggestion was that the Kursk disaster was caused by the use of HTP as torpedo propellant, abandoned long ago by the Royal Navy amongst others, combined with faults in torpedo manufacture and inadequate observance of launching procedures, possibly combined with design issues with the submarine.

  76. Snert Lee

    As Above, So Below ?

    Two collide

    Above the sky.

    Two collide

    Beneath the waves.

    Where next?

  77. Simon Millard

    It's obvious

    The English were sailing on the left. The French were sailing on the right. They were bound to hit each other.

  78. Stuart Van Onselen

    Coupl'a points on the ravings of others

    1) The Kursk: This incident has no bearing on the Kursk tragedy. Even at the time, everyone already knew that there was an American sub in the area, spying on the Russian fleet operations. Which means it had to get damn close, leading everyone to suspect that a collision was the cause of the disaster.

    Due to the partial failure of the salvaging operation, there will probably never be a definitive answer: The USA insists that it was a dud torp (and poor sub design) and the Russians will insist that it was a collision with a nosey and irresponsible Yank sub.

    2) The subs deliberately shadowing each other: If this really was the case, one or both captains would deserve to be shot! Hunting boomers is a job for dedicated attack subs, not for other boomers.

    A boomer's job is to be always ready to destroy a small country at a moment's notice*. Something that is hard to do if you're playing silly buggers with another nation's boomer. So we'd be talking serious dereliction of duty on the part of the captains, which I judge rather unlikely. No nation will leave the keys to their only boomer in the hands of an irresponsible idiot.

    *) Unless, of course, the boomer in question is a Russian Typhoon. Their job is to be always ready to destroy a LARGE country at a moment's notice. Can you imagine 200 warheads each of 200kT** yield? That's gonna leave a mark!

    **) More than 10 Hiroshima-sized bombs (13-18kT)

    3) Men have died under these circumstances before. As noted in the article, collisions were relatively common during the Cold War. I've read about one such incident where the Soviet sub struck the American sub's sail with its prop. The prop-shaft was bent so far out of shape that the water-seal ruptured. The sub filled up so quickly that there wasn't time to seal the bulkheads, and she imploded just a few minutes later.

    (Obviously these details had to be inferred from the damage to the American sub, and the recordings of that sub's passive sonar. No-one on the Soviet sub survived, and I doubt anyone ever even found the wreckage.)

  79. ian

    "French cooperation"

    Is an oxymoron.

  80. Andrew Newstead

    A matter of targets...

    The fact of both the missle boats being in the same bit of ocean is not as unrealistic as it seems. It is not unreasonable, given the politics of both Britain and France, that both counties would consider the same targets for their missiles. Given that the missiles of both navies have a similar range then the launch points for these missiles are likely to be in roughly similar places. It is unusual then that we have not had a collision before this one - either that or this is the first one reported.

  81. Nick Palmer
    Thumb Up

    @Stuart Van Onselen

    As regards point 3, there was a pretty good novel about that sort of thing called "To Kill The Potemkin" set during the late '60s IIRC.

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hull shots?

    Have you seen the place? Oh that kind of hull shot. Since the French boat has the damaged bow sonar, what are the odds that Le Capitan was trying to get some holiday snaps, Vanguard caught a whiff of reactor plant on the towed array and went for the quiet button...BANG!

  83. Tom

    What?

    "The sub filled up so quickly that there wasn't time to seal the bulkheads, and she imploded just a few minutes later."

    Why would a submarine implode after filling with water? Stop making things up.

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Windows for Subs servicepack 3 delay

    Goddam Redmond. I think Ubuntu for U-boats would be the obvious choice

  85. faibistes
    Joke

    Russian subs

    Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, two submarines, Soviet and American, come to the surface. The Soviet one is old and rusty; the American one is new and shiny. On the Soviet one, the crew lounges about without any order, and a drunken captain yells at them: "Who threw a valenok on the control board? I'm asking you, who threw a valenok on the control board?!". From the American submarine, a shaved, sober and well-dressed captain, notes sarcastically: "You know, folks, in America...". The Russian captain interrupts him, screaming: "America? America??! There is none of your fucking America anymore!" (Turns back to the crew) "Who threw a valenok onto the control board?!"

  86. James Pickett

    Forward vision

    "Why not add a window"

    My thought exactly. The sub in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea* (appropriately called the 'Seaview') had proper windows in the front, which was very handy for spotting giant octopi, aliens and the like. I know the glass has to be be pretty thick, but it must be worth it, surely?

    *A TV series in the sixties, for you younger viewers.

  87. 4irw4y

    A Popular Place For Subs Clubbing Found

    Just both three (-: were searching a right place to read YouTube better for one sat's down from top.

    Wanna get really shocked?

    A Boeing airliner crushed into Trans-Siberian railroad near Perm, Russia on September 14th, 2008. It happened to be Dmitry Medvedev's birthday [in ancient tradition, Medvedev = son of a man whos "druidic" name is Bear]

    The flight commander's surname was Medvedev.

    There were three more passengers with this surname.

    On the coat of arms of Perm there's a white bear carrying a book on back.

    Assistant to the president gen. Troshev died in this crash.

    Near Perm disappears the trace of Mikhail Romanov, who was supposed to inherit the Russian throne being alive for at least a solar circle after Nikolai's renunciation.

    What else... a couple of days later - banking crisis is announced.

    Officially: 2nd pilot was drunk, autopilot switched to manual right before the landing approach. Some say these events are impossible to be directed by a human and it's a magic fighting of egregors for the future events. A kind of a black mess was allegedly conducted. Boo?

    Oh, nearly forgot... 88 died.

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Top Subs

    They were just messing in the sea with the Frenchies, I can see it now....

    Sub Captain - "We'll hit the breaks and he will sail right by......."

    Paris - because she's been rear-ended before... I have video proof...

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @ Lewis

    Next time you are on interviewed the telly try looking *at* the camera. Staring at the floor makes you look shifty.

  90. Sunil
    Alert

    Watch it Mr. Eastwood...

    The British government seems more interested in convincing us that their sub was "fully able to launch missiles" despite the mishap, rather than address the real issues that should be taking centerstage - what if the men on the subs had died?, what if there was a nuclear spill?

  91. Robbie
    Thumb Up

    common practise?

    @AC

    The koersk sunk because the feul used in one of their test torps made contact the metal of the torp and caused a chemical reaction.

    Also note that this event isnt as a rare as people think it is. British as well as Us navy subs have collide with fishing trawlers, russing subs, whales and several other undisclosed objects.

    @AC

    A sub that isnt moving is easily detected one would only have to search for a " hole in the water " Its of strategic significance that subs keep moving around and only surface to receive comunications or to resuply.

  92. andre
    Black Helicopters

    Black Helicopters?

    Hmm. Maybe both were investigating some magnetic anomaly and collided?

    Would explain a few things...

  93. Radim Horak
    Paris Hilton

    other side of story

    who knows.. maybe later on we'll hear from the Russians or US about what exactly happened..

    Don't forget.. these two were boomer subs with nuclear missiles.. they are being usually trailed or looked after by attack subs... in this case the Russians would be probably trying to track these down... and when the two hit they might've gotten some great audio recordings.. bang.. squeeeeech... bang bang... then someone screams.. oh shite!... in brittish and something in frech... (sorry don't speak french) :)

    on the other hand.. maybe the Ruskies or US won't say anything..

    paris.. because as it was stated here before.. she loves boat-load of seamen

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Simon Ball

    Curious, are you suggesting that SOSUS detects sonar/radio transmissions from submarines?,

    and if so, why is the sub not informed in real time?

  95. Power Pentode
    Unhappy

    Re: What?

    > Why would a submarine implode after filling with water? Stop making things up.

    Many/most of the internal watertight doors were likely closed immediately, and the engine room (or whatever they call the space nowadays) filled with water. The engine room space is so large that the submarine cannot help but sink when it is flooded.

    Assuming deep water, shortly thereafter the remaining compartments began to implode, and/or the doors gave way. Not a pleasant way to go, knowing for a minute or several that you are utterly doomed.

  96. hj
    Alert

    Plot for next Bond movie

    So if i understand correctly ther are only a few places where those subs go? If I am a hostile nation / Dr. Evil all I have to do is find out where this collision happened and I will destroy at least one nuclear sub with one bomb from my special vulcanic island layer?

  97. lee harvey osmond
    Paris Hilton

    Ramming

    Ramming was all the rage 150 years ago when the armoured warship got invented. Nice to see the French are up to speed with recent developments in naval warfare.

    Paris, because ... y'know ... ramming.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    shuly

    The bigest romm in a boomer is the misile room, do you not remember the sceme from Red October? "Hey, Ryan, be careful what you shuut at. Most thingsh in here don't react too well to bulletsh".

    Paris, our expert in shooting seamen

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lewis Page on BBC

    I for one was really surprised.

    He was absolutely nothing like what I had imagined.

    And strangely enough, he never once told the BBC reporter that the Navy should have bought American submarines instead of developing our own.

    So who was he and what has he done with the real Lewis Page?

  100. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    w00t! Lewis on the Beeb!

    Nice tie.

  101. SkippyBing Silver badge

    @AC and others

    'why is the sub not informed in real time?'

    How exactly would they achieve that? Submarine being sneaky deep underwater, radio waves failing to penetrate said water how do you intend to inform them in real time? Google Communication with submarines to get an idea of the bandwidth they get down there, similarly they don't get GPS.

    As for windows (of the glass kind), although you could put a window in a submarine, and some deep research vessels do have them, the visibility at the depths involved is pitiful as light tends not to penetrate more than a few tens of meters at best. There's not much point putting great big headlights on either as it would kind of give away the sub's position.

    Oh and SOSUS doesn't cover the whole seabed, it's aligned along areas of interest like the GIUK gap where Soviet subs have to pass to get anywhere interesting. Which is probably no where near Western boomers operate.

    Seriously if everyone could red The Hunt for Red October before posting it'd save a lot of time...

  102. Patrick R
    Boffin

    The Sun was there...not.

    "He said she had returned to Faslane "under her own power", contradicting the Sun report."

    The Sun was elsewhere, checking the other sub that Jeremy Clarkson and his team had to push to its dock.

  103. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a French sub skipper.........

    A little bird told me that in the '80s if a RN SSN detected another submarine, once identified if it was a US boat, they declared their presence and if it was a French boat or a Russian boat they tracked it as a potential target. Don't know if that is the case today but I suspect as they were both SSBN's, remaining undiscovered and separating would be the order of the day rather than tracking.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Claims Direct.... how may I help you??

    Have you been injured in a nuclear sub accident recently?

    Well, due to unprecedented demand in the (depres.. - sorry Gordon) recession.

    We have expanded our service to include provision for the highly trained numpties who have just realised that when you go cloak and silent SO CAN OTHERS

    Sheesh!!!

    Turn the f*****g headlights on LOL

  105. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @skippybing

    >How exactly would they achieve that? Submarine being sneaky deep underwater, radio waves >failing to penetrate said water how do you intend to inform them in real time?

    Oh, so the missile carrying submarines cant receive radio transmissions 24*7, so its not a credible deterrent then?

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ Ian Ferguson

    How do we know they haven't? Maybe this is all an elaborate ploy between the French and English to make it look to the rest of the world like we still have the deterrent cruising round the Atlantic?

    British Admiral 1: What ho chaps. Now listen, people are starting to say that they've not seen our subs around for some time. They might catch on that we can't afford to run them 24/7 anymore. What should we do?

    British Admiral 2: Call up those French chappies, they've not been able to run theirs for years. We can get two of them to have a bit of a ding in the Atlantic, say they were both carrying nukes and everyone will be convinced!

    British Admiral 1: Capital idea! Also tip off The Sun while you're about it, they'll print any old rubbish they're told.

    And so it was...

  107. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Look around and you can see the Earth is full.

    Now it appears the sky is full (see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/12/satellite_collision/print.html) and the sea is full.

    [Wemmbey-Hogg]Brilliant. Just brilliant.[/Wemmbley-Hogg]

  108. SkippyBing Silver badge

    @AC

    Yes they can receive comms 24*7, at about three characters a minute so not really up to any sort of real time data-link type stuff which requires far more bandwidth. Especially if you're giving the tactical picture for an ocean.

  109. Simon Ball

    @AC

    Not technically true. An ELF transmission can be received practically anywhere, though ELF transmitters are horrendously difficult and expensive to build and operate, so they've all been decomissioned (apparently). Equally, VLF transmissions can be received at a depth of 20m or so. SSBNs usually shallow at pre-determined intervals to listen for messages. If you have a survivable communications network, then it isn't a problem - retaliation does not need to be immediate to be a credible deterrent. Even if you don't have a survivable network, you can resort to fail-deadly policies (we suspect an attack is imminent, launch if you don't hear from us at the designated time).

    Regardless, in either case, the bandwidth is ridiculously low - only a few characters a minute -

    far too low for a real-time stream of tactical data.

  110. Andus McCoatover
    Dead Vulture

    Not so unlikely...

    ..thanks to modern measuring devices being so accurate.

    After all, the sky's big, and planes collide because, told to fly at (e.g.) 33000 feet, they do, with frightening accuracy. (DHL and Bashkirian Airlines over Germany)

    I witnessed first-hand an incident. I was flying Finnair (SAS?) from Frankfurt to NY some years ago, sitting at a window. Most folks asleep, or watching the film. I looked out of the window, and saw a plane. Same height. <HolyGrail> Coming in our General Direction </HolyGrail> and straight at us.

    Suddenly, vapour trail (guess it was the brakes slammed on) and it took a hard left. So close, I could see it was a Lufthansa, and just about made out the passengers in the window. I'd guess about 500 metres between us.

    Point is, it was exactly at the same flight level.

    Definitely an 'air-miss' but I never read about it later.

    Tombstone, 'natch.

  111. Andus McCoatover

    @amanfrommars

    <<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>>

    Wouldn't a Quantum Leap mean £7,777,777.01? Or less?

  112. Steve W
    Joke

    Underwater roundabout

    Fairly simple explanation :

    The British sub thought that people on the underwater roundabout had right of way ; they French sub thought that people joining the underwater roundabout had right of way.

    Simple mistake, anyone could make it

  113. John Stirling

    So British and French subs hang out together?

    which may well be because they have the same (rather limited) maps (gleaned from those who know far more than I on here - or at least appear to). Well assuming those maps are not super high secret then these sus are actually rather less effective than advertised, as a serious attempt to hunt/kill simply needs to cover a few (few/few dozen/few hundred) key points, and then kill the subs as they 'come past'.

    Slightly concerning.

    I always thought they just cruised around in deep ocean at a suitable depth - relying on chance that there wouldn't be a clever tracking boat nearby. Chance in this instance seems to be a rather better option than hanging around with all the other subs (I would call them boomers like the cool kids, but I'd only be name dropping, first time I've heard the term).

  114. Tom

    FAO Ian fergusson

    Great plan, lets mothball all of our DETTERENT fleet. tit.

  115. SkippyBing Silver badge

    @Ian Fergusson

    Mothballing the fleet probably wouldn't save much if anything assuming you wanted to keep them at any effective state of readiness. They all have nuclear reactors in for starters so they'd need looking after, as would all the other systems if you wanted it to actually work when you put it back in the briney stuff. You'd also need to keep the crews trained to a competent standard which is probably best done in a err submarine. Plus you'd have all your nuclear warheads in one easy to find location. By which point you may actually be spending more keeping them mothballed than actually using them properly.

  116. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Harry Hill view

    Which ones better, Brit sub or French sub - there's only one way to find out........

    Fiiiiiggght!

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