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Submarine Collision: Britain and France

  • February 17th, 2009
  • Posted by Daniel Challis

Los Angeles Class submarine on surface (approaching view).pngA collision between two nuclear submarines from Britain and France occurred in the Atlantic Ocean this month, authorities revealed on Monday (16.2.09).

Officials said the crash occurred at low-speed; there was no damage to the vessels’ nuclear missiles or engines, and no leakage of radiation …


French authorities said (6.2.09) one of its submarines had run into a submerged object – perhaps a shipping container, an official statement indicated.

Truth of what really occurred came out after British media reported it.

The French Defense ministry said its submarine Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard, were on a routine patrol when they collided.

Britain’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Jonathon Band, said the two submarines came into contact at very low speed with no injuries  reported.

The two ships did sustain some damage, the British one reportedly returning to its base in Scotland with visible dents and scrapes.


Anti-nuclear groups said the incident was another reminder of extensive risks posed by submarines surging through the ocean containing radioactive material, including their weapons.

The French group Sortir du Nucleaire said they would be scouring the French coastline for any sign of radioactive material.

“This reminds us that we could have a new catastrophe with a nuclear submarine at any moment,” the group said.

Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament joined in.

“This is the most severe incident involving a nuclear submarine since the sinking of the Kursk in 2000 and the first time since the Cold War that two nuclear-armed subs are known to have collided,” said the head of the campaign, Kate Hudson.

Russia’s Kursk nuclear submarine crashed to the bottom of the Barents Sea in August 2000 during a training voyage, killing all 118 on board.


A retired British Royal Navy Commodore, Stephen Saunders, said that while NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries inform each other of where in the Atlantic they are operating, neither subamrine would have a precise fix on the other’s location.

“This really shouldn’t have happened at all; it’s a serious incident and I find it quite extraordinary,” he said.

Mr Saunders said subs don’t always turn on their sonar systems or make their location known.

“The whole point is to go and hide in a big chunk of ocean and not be found,” he said.


David Stringer, Associated Press, ‘British, French nuclear subs collide in Atlantic’ (16.2.09), (17.2.09).

BBC News, ‘Nuclear subs collide in Atlantic’ (16.2.09), (17.2.09).