Wild Submarine Accident? Doubtful

It’s interesting to watch the media (ex. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090216/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_sub_collision) trying to cover the Feb. 3/4 collision of the French and English nuclear-powered submarines (Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard respectively). They seem mystified that such an “accident” could have occurred.

Let’s see… According to Wikipedia, the Atlantic Ocean contains roughly 77,640,000 cubic miles of water. Of that, no doubt a sizable portion would be navigable by large submarines. Let’s say that the subs’ roaming turf is half that – 38,820,000 cubic miles. There are 834 military subs in the world. Read that 46,546.7 cubic miles per sub. My guess is that that was no million-in-one accident.

So why would two high-tech, relatively slow-moving subs have a meeting situation out in the briny dark? Well, either one got too close to the other while shadowing, or there is something special about that undisclosed chunk of the North Atlantic. But what could be out there?

Ultraquiet No More says that Le Triomphant took at least three days to limp back to her home port of Brest. “Limping” for a nuclear submarine probably constitutes 10 or 15 mph for a distance of perhaps 1,000 miles. And that would probably put the subs somewhere near Iceland.

Why Iceland to the north? Because going 1,000 miles to the south will plunk you somewhere around the Southern end of Spain, and that ain’t where the action is. No, to the north of Brest lies Iceland and the ideal place to watch Russian submarines scoot out of the Norwegian Sea. (Remember “Red Route One” in “The Hunt for Red October“?)

From a superb BBC article:

Nuclear engineer John Large 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.”

Sorry MSM… There was no “one in a million” mishap between the Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard… Likely, they simply “bumped elbows” trying to secure the best viewing position of Russian activity.

Alan Speakman


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