Friday, January 11, 2013

Submaine Collision in the Arabian Gulf

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Nov. 15, 2012) The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) moored at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Mercil/Released)
This happened yesterday.
No one was hurt when the periscope on USS Jacksonville (SSN 699), a Los Angeles-class submarine, struck a vessel while operating in the Arabian Gulf Jan. 10 at approximately 5 a.m. local time.

Jacksonville surfaced from periscope depth to ascertain if there was any damage to the unidentified vessel. The vessel continued on a consistent course and speed offering no indication of distress or acknowledgement of a collision.

Damage appears to be limited to one of Jacksonville's two periscopes. The reactor remains in a safe condition, there was no damage to the propulsion plant systems and there is no concern regarding watertight integrity.

A U.S. P-3 Orion aircraft conducted a search of the area and saw no debris in the water or vessels in distress. The airborne search of the area is complete.

The incident is under investigation.

Jacksonville is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
After the submarine got hit, they tried to raise the first periscope and could not, so they raised the second periscope and were able to ascertain a bit of understanding of the damage before surfacing.

Due to accidents, the number of submarines in the force able to report as fully prepared is steadily dropping in number. This marks the third nuclear attack submarine put out of action due to damage in an accident; USS Miami (SSN 755), USS Montpelier (SSN 765), and now USS Jacksonville (SSN 699); all in the last 10 months.

While USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) hasn't officially been sent home from deployment yet, unless the Navy is able to completely mitigate the damage, the submarine will likely be sent home. Even the slightest damage to one of our nuclear attack submarines can disrupt the stealth advantage of the submarine, and because they do dangerous work every day that no one should be talking about publicly, I do expect for the Navy to send the submarine back to homeport in Pearl Harbor.

The littorals are becoming more crowded. It is not unreasonable to assume this type of accident will happen from time to time, indeed it is probably more unreasonable to assume that every single instance of something like this happening can be mitigated by the vessels crew.

With that said, with the zero-tolerance policy environment for Commanding Officers of ships, submarines, and aircraft in the US Navy today, I suspect the career of the CO is likely over. I personally find sympathy with both sides of the argument regarding whether the policy is good or bad for the Navy, and I can't say the verdict regarding the effectiveness of that policy is cut and dry.

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