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The Military United States Technology

US Nuclear Sub Crashes Into US Navy Amphibious Vessel 266

Kugrian writes "Showing that it's not just the British and the French who have trouble seeing each other on the high seas, a US Nuclear submarine yesterday crashed into a US Navy heavy cruiser. The USS Hartford, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, was submerged as it crashed into the USS New Orleans in the strait of Hormuz, resulting in the spillage of 95,000 litres of diesel fuel. Both vessels were heading in the same direction when the collision occurred in the narrow strait and were subsequently heading to port for repairs. A spokesman for the 5th Fleet said that the USS Hartford suffered no damage to its nuclear propulsion system." According to the USS New Orleans' Wikipedia page, it's actually an amphibious transport dock.
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US Nuclear Sub Crashes Into US Navy Amphibious Vessel

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  • Oh sure... (Score:2, Funny)

    by iocat ( 572367 )
    This is the cover story, but what *really* happened?
  • by rackserverdeals ( 1503561 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:51PM (#27283065) Homepage Journal

    You guys are so negative.

    The headline should be "US Navy perfects underwater stealth technology."

    • Re:Why so negative. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Fenresulven ( 516459 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:55PM (#27283093)
      The USS New Orleans isn't equipped with a sonar suite, perfecting underwater stealth technology sufficiently to hide from her isn't much of an accomplishment.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tftp ( 111690 )
        I think it's submarine navigator's duty to avoid surface ships. Hardly any surface ship can detect a submarine at periscope depth, let alone if it is deeper. Sailors at USS Hartford must have been completely deaf to not hear the noise of a huge ship.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          You obviously haven't served in the submarine force, have demonstrated zero actual knowledge of how submarines operate, and probably don't understand any about sea state conditions and the physics behind the extreme difficulty of detecting obstacles when your vessel is operating in a certain layer of the ocean.

          Deaf? Not to be too harsh, but please come back when you know what you're talking about.
          • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:31PM (#27283415) Homepage

            Deaf? Not to be too harsh, but please come back when you know what you're talking about.

            Since you obviously know the subject, maybe you can comment on three items of my post:

            1. Who has the primary duty to avoid such a collision?
            2. Is it reasonable to expect a surface ship to see a submarine 30' below the surface at night?
            3. Would it be expected that many sailors aboard the sub will hear 100,000 HP diesels of a surface ship a couple of hundred feet away?

            In my opinion these answers, made by a competent person, would be far more useful than guessing about me and at the same time telling nothing on the subject of discussion.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Also, in the straits of Hormuz the water is sufficiently shallow that you don't get any thermal masking. While the 100,000 HP diesels aren't standard ICE motors (they are turbines), and surface ships do have significant noise masking technologies, the sub should have been able to hear them. Further, the transits are supposed to be coordinated and executed via preplanned-intended-movement (PIM) track. One of the skippers is going to get fired of this.

            • Re:Why so negative. (Score:5, Informative)

              by palegray.net ( 1195047 ) <philip@paradis.palegray@net> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:57PM (#27283627) Homepage Journal
              I'll be happy to help with your answers, to the extent that I'm permitted. I hope you understand that there are things Sailors can't talk about, and my statements in no way reflect the official position of the U.S. Navy on any matter related to fleet operations. I'm not even in the Navy anymore, but I just got out at the beginning of March, so I'm still pretty close to a lot of folks who are serving.

              Now that we're done with the disclaimer, here's what I can say about your questions:
              1. Ultimately, the CO is responsible for anything the vessel does. This is a big job, and involves years of training and study. Typically, submarine COs are Commanders or Captains. Down the line, the Navigator is indeed accountable for the vessel's movement. However, the Navigator depends on accurate input from multiple departments in making real-time decisions. Small mistakes in any area can result in large problems. This stuff is hard work, and inherently dangerous.
              2. Yes and no. Depends on what ships we're talking about, but the answer is mostly no in the vast majority of cases. Submarines are built for stealth, an attribute they excel at most of the time (people get in trouble when that's not the case). This puts big limitations on what subs can do to keep tabs on their environment, however.
              3. There's a big difference in knowing that something's out there, and knowing precisely where that vessel is. It's an imperfect science that depends heavily on rapid analysis of a whole lot of variables at once, and operating conditions and mission requirements sometimes make it necessary to operate in close proximity to other vessels. It's just part of the job, and 99.9% of the time there are no problems. Factors like sea state, water temperatures, and other considerations can make the job of monitoring proximity more difficult. Seafaring civilians understand a lot these issues, too.

              I hope these answers help give you an appreciation of the complexity of these operations. My initial reply was intended to get you to stop and think; sorry if I came across too hot. Thanks for your interest.

            • Re:Why so negative. (Score:5, Informative)

              by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:57PM (#27283629)

              Since you obviously know the subject, maybe you can comment on three items of my post:

              1. Who has the primary duty to avoid such a collision?

              Both parties, actually. But the Sub will be held to a higher standard. Because the surface ship is expected to not see the boat.

              2. Is it reasonable to expect a surface ship to see a submarine 30' below the surface at night?

              30' below the surface isn't nearly far enough down to make the sub invisible, even at night. But, in general, we don't expect surface ships to see our subs unless they're snorkeling.

              3. Would it be expected that many sailors aboard the sub will hear 100,000 HP diesels of a surface ship a couple of hundred feet away?

              Two things:

              New Orleans only has 40,000 HP engines.

              The anechoic coating on a submarine makes it pretty hard to hear anything going on inside from the outside, and pretty hard to hear anything going on outside from the inside.

              On the other hand, we usually expect the sonar guys to hear this sort of thing.

              On the gripping hand, you won't be trailing your tail in the Straits of Hormuz, and aren't likely to hear something overhauling you until it gets really close. By which time dodging is impossible in restricted waters.

              In my opinion these answers, made by a competent person, would be far more useful than guessing about me and at the same time telling nothing on the subject of discussion.

              Probably. The real question in the business is who was overhauling, and who was being overhauled. There's no excuse for a sub bumping a diesel-powered LPD from behind. There's a lot more excuse for the boat being run over by the LPD in tight waters, which these were.

              I should note that the last couple paragraphs of TFA were completely unnecessary, and serve no other purpose other than to contribute to anti-nuclear hysteria - the presence or absence of nuclear weapons had no effect on the collision between the French and Brit boats, and there was ZERO chance, even if both boats had been sunk by the collision (basically impossible unless both boats were running at flank speed, and damn unlikely even then), of any of the nuclear weapons on board being a "catastrophe narrowly averted".

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Hey, I've served in the submarine force and I damn well know that the CO, the Nav, and the OOD on the submarine are at fault (and they will be fired along with the XO). The Strait of Hormuz is fairly shallow (rarely exceeds 300 ft) and it doesn't surprise me that a submarine would traverse it at night at or near periscope depth to avoid detection. A submarine operating in this area would have to be very careful because you can't simply order an emergency dive to avoid other ships. For this reason I would

            • Re:Why so negative. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by INT_QRK ( 1043164 ) on Sunday March 22, 2009 @01:29AM (#27285833)
              The Naval services (Navy and Marines) have a great yet harsh and unforgiving tradition of holding its officers accountable, more ruthlessly and consistently than their sister services. It is both laudable and unfortunate that the Captains and their key Officers and Petty Officers will be held to account. Some will be relieved of command (or their duties/qualifications) and their career truncated or stalled. In some cases justice will have been served and in others unfairness may be gleaned. The truth is that sea duty is harsh, exhausting, and complex. Sometimes shit just happens, but that's never allowed as an excuse. There but by the grace of god may go, or have gone, any of them. Good luck and god bless them all. (USN, Ret.)
  • I'm an ex-submariner who served with some of the guys on the Hartford (not my boat, but I went to school with them). This kind of thing is extremely unfortunate, and it really sucks for the whole community when accidents like this happen. I was relieved to find out that nobody was killed, and my thoughts are with the crew as they deal with this mess.

    Yes, this is the result of human failure. That's not up for debate, and I'm not trying to excuse the mistakes that led up to this event. I'm trying to reinforce the idea that this kind of work is inherently dangerous, and that the men who serve on these vessels accept a lot of risk to do their jobs. Please consider this before launching an overly heated reply. Thank you.
    • by iocat ( 572367 )
      I have a friend on the last nuclear powered sub to hit another ship, and yes, it's a major bummer for everyone involved.
      • On the other hand, I find your comment, plus your sig, quite comical, that wasn't one of his quotes was it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This isn't the first accident for Hartford. She ran aground off Sardinia in 2003. "The US Navy investigation into the incident revealed a pattern of navigation, procedural and equipment errors leading up to the accident."


      • Yep. Mistakes were made then, too, serious ones. This is the kind of that gets people killed, no doubt about it. Again, my intent is not to minimize the seriousness of the matter. I'm trying to get people to have a little sympathy for the crew as a whole, along with their families. Incidents like this have far-reaching consequences, and it's going to suck really hard for a lot of people who had nothing to do with the mistakes that led up to the accident.
        • Care to explain to a land rat, how this is even possible?

          As far as I know, they always know exactly what their distance to the surroundings are, don't they? So did they ignore the displays? Are there proximity warnings that go off? Were they ignored?

          Did they not know, that a large ship was above them? Really?
          Or did they know, but not watch the distance?

          I don't get it... Sorry...
          In my mind, I always have this picture of a really drunk crew, with an even more drunk captain. And as far as I know, military peop

          • An earlier reply [slashdot.org] I made in this story contains information that will probably answer a lot of your questions. As for drinking, alcohol is prohibited aboard U.S. Navy vessels. A bad conduct discharge would probably be the least of a Sailor's concerns if he were found to be under the influence of anything mood-altering during a casualty. More likely, it would be the lengthy prison term that would be cause for worry.
      • I was onboard for that one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by INT_QRK ( 1043164 )
        Anybody who has served in the USN would know that anything which might have happened in 2003 to a given ship is completely irrelevant, since there is nearly zero change that anyone who had served on board that ship in 2003 would still be on board that same ship in 2009. U.S. Navy sea-duty tours are 2, 3 or four years at most, rate and rank dependent, in any one command. A ships performance is a function the aggregate knowledge, skills and experience of the crew given leadership effectiveness and good luck.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Unless it has changed since 2006, nuclear enlisted sea tours are 4-1/2 years.

          But it is still possible to have a 6 year sea tour. Here's how it works:

          1. Enlist May 1998
          2. Finish nuclear training and report to ship May 2000
          3. Immediately reenlist for 6 years in a tax-free combat zone
          4. November 2004: Complete your 4-1/2 year sea tour. At this point you have 18 months left in your enlistment. You can not transfer to shore duty because the minimum tour is 24 months. In order to get transfer orders, you must extend your enl
        • is related to current performance. A ship's character is determined early in it's career. I served aboard an outstanding destroyer, and I served aboard a garbage scow of a frigate. Everything was different - it was almost like two different navies. One example: In two and a half years aboard the destroyer, we went dead in the water ONE TIME, and the snipes had power back up in about 15 minutes. THEN, heads rolled. In two and a half years aboard the frigate, we went dead in the water routinely, sometime
    • I think it is safe to say that right now the Navy needs both more men and ships. The problem is that the Navy is trying to do way too much with too few ships. Not only is the Navy tasked with enforcing Pax Americana, it must also provide air support to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, be prepared to stave off North Korean ballistic missiles, monitor the Chinese, stop the pirates and by the way win the war on drugs. These sailors are going out to sea for six months to a year at a time. Those who wonder if astronauts could hang in a mission to Mars should simply hire sailors - they are out in a ship for nearly as long.

      The other biggest problem with the Navy is the foolish insistence on having private shipyards build warships. The idea of having private shipyards is certainly sound - but ultimately, Naval warships are rather nothing like their civilian counterparts and so its not really right to say that privatization makes any sense. The Navy really does need to operate its own yards, take on its own construction, and just clear out some of the cost overruns and red tape as contractors want projects to overrun, but the Navy wants its ships sooner rather than later.

      But in the meantime I would say that Navy needs to build really rather a lot more frigate / destroyer type of ships and have them operate in ports. Having something like a battleship would be good largely just to show the flag... but I would build something new and leave the Iowas in the museums where they belong.

      • by Shipwack ( 684009 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @09:21PM (#27284321)
        As retired submariner, I can certainly get behind the idea of having more subs... The number missions they are tasked with every year never goes down (and usually goes up), but there are fewer and fewer submarines every year to do them (old subs are being decommissioned faster than new ones are being built).

        I've also heard surface types saying we need more carrier battle groups, an I understand their reasoning. And the logistics corp can also talk about we don't have enough supply vessels to adequately take care of our ships -now-. But... Where does it all stop? We only have so much money... I think one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century said it best:

        ''Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . This is not a way of life at all in any sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.''--Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953, before the American Society of Newspaper Editors

        • by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <DesScorp@nosPAM.Gmail.com> on Sunday March 22, 2009 @01:50AM (#27285953) Homepage Journal

          Current plans call for a fleet of 314 ships or so in a few years... up from our current fleet of 280.

          The problem is that the number is a pipe dream because of rising costs. A number of new and current ship programs have simply gone off the rails in terms of costs, and the Navy is going to have to make some hard choices. All dollar figures below are referenced from the CBO when possible, and reputable news outlets otherwise.

          The Littoral Combat Ship program; originally the Navy's "cheap" solution to getting more ships in the fleet, these controversial (lightly armed, aluminum hulls) have doubled in cost per unit, from $225 million apiece, to over $500 million per piece.

          The Virginia Class Submarine; a "cheap" alternative to the $2 billion apiece Seawolf class, the Virginias... smaller, and less capable than the Seawolfs in most respects... are now even more expensive than the ships they replaced, at $2.3 billion a pop.

          The Zumwalt Class Destroyer; the Navy's White Elephant. An all-things to all-people design with cutting edge tech in every nook and cranny, and the price tag shows... $7 billion per ship (that's per unit cost, folks, not including development costs). The Navy orginally wanted 7, canceled the program, and Congress is forcing them to build 2 anyway, and possibly 3. To put this price into perspective, these destroyers cost more apiece than a Nimitz class carrier.

          The VH-71 Kestrel Helicopter; the Navy's replacement for the President's current Marine One fleet, the Kestrel is as effed-up a defense program as you'll ever find. It's basically a European helicopter built in America... except the prime contractor (excuse me, systems integrator), Lockheed Martin, has precisely zero experience building helicopters. After all of the subcontractor price markups, this helicopter now costs more per unit than Air Force one. That's a right, a helicopter that costs more than a tricked-out 747.

          The Joint Strike Fighter; again, supposedly a "cheap" way to put airplanes on Navy and USMC decks, most realistic estimates put the cost for the Navy and USMC versions at over $100 million apiece and climbing. One CBO report claims the initial production run will be closer to $200 million apiece because of production line start-up costs. This for a plane that in many cases is inferior in some modes of performance to some of the planes it'll be replacing (the F-16, A-10, F/A-18C).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

        The other biggest problem with the Navy is the foolish insistence on having private shipyards build warships. The idea of having private shipyards is certainly sound - but ultimately, Naval warships are rather nothing like their civilian counterparts and so its not really right to say that privatization makes any sense.

        That's a fascinating claim, but one you completely and utterly fail to provide significant supporting facts for.

        It's doubly interesting when you consider far more USN warships have be

    • Accidents happen all the time in all branches of the military.

      As a nautical layman I'm wondering how the accident would happen. Could you give us your perspective? It would seem that there was an organizational failure of coordination between the leadership of the two vessels, or do they keep sub routes a secret from some or all surface ships?

      I know that LPD's are big, lumbering cargo and personnel transport ships and they have navigational SONAR, so I'm interested in the sub in particular -- What do
      • In the interest of avoiding comment duplication, you have a look at my response to another poster [slashdot.org] for some information. Thanks for a well-reasoned set of questions!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        or do they keep sub routes a secret from some or all surface ships?

        The only thing a surface ship would be told is that there is a submarine operating (or not) in a given area of the ocean - not exactly where in that area.

        And the areas in question aren't small.

        New Orleans prolly knew that there were boats in the region of the Persian Gulf, but no more than that.

      • I know that LPD's are big, lumbering cargo and personnel transport ships and they have navigational SONAR, so I'm interested in the sub in particular -- What do you think led to the accident? Did the crew have enough sensors on to see? Do the books not mandate the SONAR methods which would have helped the sub detect the LPD? Was the sub required to maintain stealth given the Strait of Hormuz' vicinity to Iran?

        An LPD isn't all that big, really. It's also not "lumbering". It's what they call a "gator freigh

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by chrisG23 ( 812077 )
        I was on a small ship, a DDG (Guided Missle Destroyer) for 3 years and I can provide some information. I am by no means on expert as my rating (job designation) had little to do with piloting the ship. The US has 2 main types of subs, boomers and attack subs. Nobody knows where a boomer goes after it leaves port and dives, not even the captain of the sub until after he has read his classified mission instructions. Once they are gone, they are gone for 3 months. They can transit around the planet or kick it
        • No way a 688 class submarine carrying "about 200 people" was undermanned.

          Where would that many people sleep?

    • by thewiz ( 24994 )

      Actually, I heard that the amphibious vessel failed to turn left at Albuquerque.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jcorgan ( 30025 )
      Indeed, it is likely that the rigorous crew training and constant drill practice responding to situations like these is responsible there being so *few* injuries, and that both ships can still steam under their own power back to port.

      (Another ex-submariner)

      • Well said! It's funny how when we were in the service the mere mention of more drills would elicit a universal moan of anguish, but the real value of these exercises shines through when casualties are quickly handled. You really hit the nail on the head: this could probably have been a lot worse. Thanks for your service!
  • Oh comon... (Score:2, Funny)

    by XPeter ( 1429763 ) *
    Am I the only one who smells something fishy? Million dollar machines crashing into eachother? For the second time in a month? Somethings up.
    • I surely hope your comment was meant in jest. These are billion dollar machines, by the way, manned by real live people who put their lives on the line every day to do a job most people know nothing about. Have a little respect for those who serve.
  • by auric_dude ( 610172 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:10PM (#27283239)
    USS New Orleans (LPD-18), a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, is the fourth commissioned ship of the United States Navy to be named for the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is designed to be able to deliver a fully-equipped battalion of 700 Marines. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_New_Orleans_(LPD-18) [wikipedia.org] and not the old USS New Orleans USS New Orleans (CA-32) (formerly CL-32) was a United States Navy heavy cruiser http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_New_Orleans_(CA-32) [wikipedia.org] as suggested in the article. A fair account of what happened in the Strait of Hormuz can be found at http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/2009/03/navy-ships-collide-in-strait-of-hormuz.html [blogspot.com]
  • usually Slashdot is pretty quick to get the news but his happened yesterday folks - I guess the admins didn't think it was newsworthy yesterday

  • This reminds me of an old story:

    Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10.10.95

    Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
    Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
    Americans: This is the captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again: divert your course.
    Canadians: No. I say again: divert YOUR course.

  • amphibious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by squidinkcalligraphy ( 558677 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:40PM (#27283497)

    Am I the only one who was imagining a big ship with big-ass wheels that could roll up the beach and conquer all that stood before it?

  • by managerialslime ( 739286 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:47PM (#27283547) Journal
    Wiki has not only a good explanation but a great cut-away illustration of "Amphibious transport docks."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphibious_transport_dock [wikipedia.org]

    From the name, it sounded like the ship was actually "land and sea" capable. In fact, it ferries copters and truly amphibious vehicles close to shore. This is a ship only and does not appear to intentionally embrace the beach.

  • What if our sub slammed into an Iranian vessel?

  • From the song "Ninety Nine Crunch Berries"

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @08:56PM (#27284123) Homepage

    It's surprising, almost amazing, that the US even tries to run subs through the Straits of Hormuz. Look at the shipping lane map. [wikipedia.org] That's one of the world's busiest shipping lanes (half the world's supertankers go through there), it's shallow, there are narrow spots and islands, there's a sharp turn at the narrowest spot. and there's no organized traffic control.

    The real question is whether the US should be running subs through there at all. It might be worth it in wartime, but unless the sub had a job to do in the Persian Gulf, questions will be asked about the policy of doing this.

    The sub driver will lose his command, of course.

    This is the boat's second accident; the previous one was a grounding due to a navigational error. The ship's motto, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead", may need changing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The real question is whether the US should be running subs through there at all. It might be worth it in wartime, but unless the sub had a job to do in the Persian Gulf, questions will be asked about the policy of doing this.

      It's the only practical route for Atlantic fleet submarines to deploy to the Persian Gulf. No way they are going to stop using it.

  • Was it parked in water or on land?
  • by hachete ( 473378 ) on Sunday March 22, 2009 @05:12AM (#27286575) Homepage Journal

    as in the rule of the road, which also covers submarines.

    Rule 13


    (a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

    (b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.

    (c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

    (d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or reliever her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.

    I'm guessing the sub was overtaking the surface ship.

    Officer Of The Watch has *full* command when he - or she - is on watch. However, the OOW is supposed to call the Old Man whenever traffic gets busy. If a ship is in busy waters, the Captain should be on the bridge *anyway*, particularly if the OOW is a junior officer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Max_W ( 812974 )
      If there was a fog at that time being on the bridge does not influence much. What is needed is a radar or emitting good old 4 seconds horn sound every minute.

      On a boat which costs 1,000,000,000 could be a radar with alarm which costs about 750. I am sure there were more radar systems on them than one.

      I cannot imagine why these boats could collide at all. I guess it was a virus or trojan in the Win32 NT Military Edition system or it was overwhelmed by spam.

      As military ships are becoming more and more l

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