Thursday, February 19, 2009

British, French nuclear submarines collide

A British Royal Navy nuclear submarine and its French equivalent collided while on operations in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, defense ministries in Paris and London confirmed Monday. What? Current military technology enables you to drop a bomb into a coffee can from ten miles away, yet somehow your nuclear submarines were unable to avoid colliding into one another in an ocean the size of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia combined. This incident clearly falls under the category of how in the hell did this happen? It’s no wonder we seceded from your sorry asses over two centuries ago England, and it’s no surprise you haven’t been able to defend yourself ever since we bailed your sorry asses out of World War II France. To say this incident is an embarrassment to your respective militaries would be like saying Tom Cruise is slightly eccentric or Paris Hilton is slightly promiscuous.

Seriously guys, I wanna know, how in the hell do two sophisticated vessels from allegedly civilized nations run into one another in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Aren’t all submarines equipped with sonar technology that allows operators to spot approaching vessels from like a hundred miles away? Naval analyst Richard Cobbold confirmed to CNN that both submarines were indeed equipped with state-of-the-art sonar technology, but Cobbold said it was possible that neither was aware of the close proximity of the other vessel. Huh? "Modern submarines are very, very quiet. In many types of water conditions they might not hear the approach of another submarine," he said. Dude, I’m no “naval analyst” like you but I do know how sonar works. There are two types of sonar: active and passive. Passive sonar is a listening device only; sound waves produced by another source are received and changed into electrical signals for display on a monitor. Active sonar, on the other hand, sends out sound waves in pulses; then measures the time it takes these pulses to travel through the water, reflect off of an object, and return to the ship. Because devices on ships are programmed to know how fast sound travels through water, they can easily calculate the distance between their ship and the object they are interested in, such as another ship. So Dick, unless you’re telling me that these supposedly state-of-the-art nuclear submarines rely on passive sonar only and are not equipped with active sonar technology (which I highly doubt is the case), then your statement makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Cobbold went on to say that with both nations (England and France) keeping at least one nuclear-armed submarine constantly at sea for 40 years it’s no surprise that they had eventually ended up in the same area of ocean. "Even in an ocean the size of the North Atlantic the submarines are eventually going to be in the same patch of water at the same time," he said. Yo Dick, are you aware that the Atlantic Ocean covers over 22% of the earth’s surface? Suggesting that if two submarines travel around the Atlantic Ocean long enough they have a good chance at colliding is analogous to suggesting that if two human beings travel around the five most populous continents long enough they have a good chance at meeting each other. Are you starting to realize just how stupid and ridiculous your statements truly were? Where the hell does CNN find these “analysts” anyway?

I digress… in a statement issued Monday, the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament described the incident as "a nuclear nightmare of the highest order”. “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," said CND chair Kate Hudson. "The dents reportedly visible on the British sub show the boats were no more than a couple of seconds away from total catastrophe." Hudson said the incident was the most serious involving a nuclear submarine since the sinking of the Russian Kursk in 2000 with the loss of the vessel's entire 118-man crew. Finally - someone who makes sensible statements, albeit slightly over dramatic statements, but sensible all the same. While both the British and French navies are downplaying this incident for obvious reasons, there is no doubt everyone involved feels lucky that this collision didn’t end in catastrophe, as it easily could have.

The British submarine involved in the incident is the HMS Vanguard, which was launched in 1992, and is one of four submarines which make up the UK's nuclear deterrent. Its firepower includes 16 Trident II D5 missiles capable of delivering multiple warheads to targets up to a range of 4,000 nautical miles. The 150-meter vessel carries a crew of 141 and is powered by a uranium-fueled pressurized water reactor. Vanguard Class submarines routinely spend weeks at a time underwater on patrol in the North Atlantic. But contact with naval commanders and government officials, including the defense secretary and the prime minister, is maintained at all times by a "comprehensive network of communications installations," the Royal Navy Web site says. That all sounds great, HMS Vanguard, but how did you not spot that French sub right smack in front of you? I’m gonna go out on a limb hear and guess that all 141 of your crew members were too busy drinking warm beer, playing indoor cricket, or watching a scoreless soccer match on the tely to check your sonar monitor. Am I warm?

The French submarine involved in the incident is the Le Triomphant, which was launched in 1994 and entered service in 1997, and is one of four submarines which make up French’s “Force de Frappe” nuclear sub program. It carries a crew of 111, according to the web site. Its weapons include 16 M45 missiles capable of launching multiple nuclear warheads. Good for you Le Triomphant, but what’s your excuse for not spotting that giant British sub right in front of you? Let me guess, all 111 of your crew members were too preoccupied eating soft cheese, smoking excessive amounts of cigarettes, or watching dudes in tight shorts peddle 10-speeds through the mountains to check your sonar monitor. Sound about right?

I can’t help but find this whole incident very amusing (which is obviously only the case because it didn’t result in any real tragedy)… just one more bullet point on the long and growing list of reasons why I wake up every day and thank God that I’m not a Euro. God bless America and God bless being an American.

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