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A Royal Navy nuclear submarine was involved in a collision with a French nuclear sub in the middle of the Atlantic, the MoD has confirmed.
HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant were badly damaged in the crash in heavy seas earlier this month.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said the submarines came into contact at low speed and no injuries were reported.
Both the UK and France insisted nuclear security had not been compromised.
Factfile: HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant
BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the incident was "incredibly embarrassing" for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
She said HMS Vanguard, with "very visible dents and scrapes", was towed back to its home base at Faslane on the Firth of Clyde.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band confirms the collision took place
The submarines are equipped with sonar to detect other vessels nearby but our correspondent said it be might the case that the anti-sonar devices, meant to hide the submarines from enemies, were "too effective".
"This is clearly a one-in-a-million chance when you think about how big the Atlantic is," she said.
The two submarines are key parts of each nation's nuclear deterrent, and would have been carrying missiles, though both the UK and France have insisted there was no danger of a nuclear incident.
They were carrying around 240 sailors between them. A French naval spokesman said the collision did not result in any injuries to the crew.
Le Triomphant is based at L'Ile Longue near Brest, north-west France. HMS Vanguard arrived back in Faslane on Saturday.
On 6 February, France's defence ministry had said that Le Triomphant "collided with an immersed object (probably a container)" when coming back from patrolling, and that the vessel's sonar dome was damaged.
But in a subsequent statement, it admitted that the collision between the two submarines took place.
"They briefly came into contact at a very low speed while submerged," the statement added.
Retired Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, said the cause of the collision appeared to be procedural rather than technical.
"These submarines should not have been in the same place at the same time," he added.
If there were ever to be a bang it would be a mighty big one
Lib Dem shadow defence spokesman
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."
In 1992, the US nuclear submarine USS Baton Rouge was struck by a surfacing Russian nuclear sub in the Barents Sea.
When the nuclear submarine HMS Trafalgar ran aground during a training exercise off the coast of Skye in 2002, the damage was estimated at £5m ($7m).
HMS Vanguard completed a two-year refit completed in 2007 as part of a £5bn contract, and is not due to be replaced until 2024.
Politicians have demanded more information on the latest incident.
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.
"Now that this incident is public knowledge, the people of Britain, France and the rest of the world need to be reassured this can never happen again and that lessons are being learned."
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.
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."
By Gregory Viscusi
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- French and British nuclear-missile submarines collided earlier this month while on routine patrol in the Atlantic, the countries’ militaries said. No one was injured.
The U.K. vessel, the Vanguard, returned to its base at Faslane in Scotland on Feb. 14, the Ministry of Defence in London said today. The French military said Feb. 6 that Le Triomphant, part of France’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent fleet, had collided with an unidentified object and returned to its home port of Brest under its own power. French military spokesmen at the time declined to give further details.
“Both the Vanguard and Le Triomphant are among the most silent submarines ever developed,” Bruno Tertrais, a senior researcher at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said today in a telephone interview. “The Atlantic is a big place, but coincidences can happen.”
The British military said the nuclear-powered submarines “came into contact at very low speeds.” The vessels “remained safe and no injuries occurred,” the ministry said, adding, “We can confirm that the capability remained unaffected and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety.”
The incident was previously reported by the London-based Sun newspaper.
The submarines “entered briefly into contact at very low speed,” the French military said today in a statement. “Neither their missions nor their nuclear safety were affected.”
The collision, while embarrassing for both navies, didn’t create any radioactive risk, Tertrais said.
“Both the reactors and the missiles are built in such a way that they can withstand extreme shock,” Tertrais said. “I’d class this one as a fender bender.”
The 138-meter (453-foot) Le Triomphant, which has a crew of 112, is one of France’s four nuclear-armed submarines. It entered service in 1997 and is equipped with 16 ballistic missiles.
At least two of the French submarines are always out on patrol, the French military said on its Web site. Their sonar systems can detect a ship up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, though the submarines make no noise themselves.
The 150-meter Vanguard was commissioned in 1993, has a crew of 135, and carries 16 Trident missiles.
“This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order,” Kate Hudson, chairwoman of the London-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said in statement on the group’s Web Site.
“The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons on board, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed,” Hudson said. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown should “seize this opportunity to end continuous patrols,” she added.
Having watched the movie " Run Silent, Run Deep" , ( starring Clark Gable , Burt Lancaster, Jack Warden, and Don Rickles ) twice , I am qualified to comment on this accident-which was most likely caused by the English sub driving on the left, and the French crew drinking wine while boat-driving.
They should put a horn ( like a Mac truck has ) on those things-and mebbe a windshield, so you can see where the hell you're going.
Nuclear power doesn't automatically mean Chernobyl.
Sounds like both skippers were running quiet.
Chassez pour l'Octobre Rouge??
“De inimico non loquaris male, sed cogites"-
Do not wish death for your enemy, plan it.
I've asked myself the same question, to add further to your question; Why the hell did we buy those subs from the UK (assuming that they knew that they were off-loading a problem on us) again?Fotoflyer wrote:What ever happened to Canada's white elephant subs? If memory serves one was called Chicoutimi and had a fire that tragically killed an officer.
The government screwed up when buying them; they let the submarines rot at the dock for years until they finally pulled the trigger to buy them. Then when they bought them, they didn't allocate enough money to ensure they were properly refitted. Typical penny pinching Liberals...TeePeeCreeper wrote:I've asked myself the same question, to add further to your question; Why the hell did we buy those subs from the UK (assuming that they knew that they were off-loading a problem on us) again?Fotoflyer wrote:What ever happened to Canada's white elephant subs? If memory serves one was called Chicoutimi and had a fire that tragically killed an officer.
Luckily, there was plenty of money for Quebec advertisers. Whew.WJflyer wrote:The government screwed up when buying them; they let the submarines rot at the dock for years until they finally pulled the trigger to buy them. Then when they bought them, they didn't allocate enough money to ensure they were properly refitted. Typical penny pinching Liberals...TeePeeCreeper wrote:I've asked myself the same question, to add further to your question; Why the hell did we buy those subs from the UK (assuming that they knew that they were off-loading a problem on us) again?Fotoflyer wrote:What ever happened to Canada's white elephant subs? If memory serves one was called Chicoutimi and had a fire that tragically killed an officer.
The Liberal Party of Canada… always putting your tax dollars to good use.