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US Navy Cruiser and Submarine Collide 236

An anonymous reader writes "Despite billions of dollars in advanced electronics, radar, and sonar it seems the Navy needs to install backup cameras on their boats. 'The Pentagon said late Saturday that it is investigating why a Navy submarine collided with an Aegis cruiser during routine operations at an undisclosed location.' According to ABC, 'the two ships were participating in a “group sail” along with another vessel. The three ships were participating in an anti-submarine exercise in preparation for an upcoming deployment as part of the strike group for the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman."
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US Navy Cruiser and Submarine Collide

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  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:18AM (#41647249)
  • Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:18AM (#41647251)

    "Despite billions of dollars in advanced electronics, radar, and sonar it seems the Navy needs to install backup cameras on their boats. '

    The point of a submarine is to be undetectable. Apparenly it worked.

    My speculation, knowing submariners, is that the sub's captain was playing grab-ass with the surface ships, as they are wont to do during these kinds of exercises, due to the utter disdain for the surface fleet.

    There are two kinds of seagoing vessels. Submarines and targets.


    • That may be, but they're "friendlies": you'd think they'd talk to each other. Wouldn't they at least know each others' planned moves to avoid something like this?
      • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:27AM (#41647293) Homepage

        This was an "anti-submarine exercise". What part of that do you think improves the training on either boat or ship if the "friendlies" talk to each other?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by evil_aaronm ( 671521 )
          Then it's epic #fail on the part of the sub for not knowing where its target is. If this had been a real emergency, said sub would've been sunk.
          • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by dakohli ( 1442929 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @10:21AM (#41649145)

            Then it's epic #fail on the part of the sub for not knowing where its target is. If this had been a real emergency, said sub would've been sunk.

            As a former submariner, you are essentially correct here.

            It is the submarine's responsibility to not surface/come shallow in front of a hazard (ship)

            Unless you are snorting in a stovepipe (reserved area for the submarine) the ships pretty much have right of way. If the sub is in some sort of trouble, they are supposed to launch a red flare and call out on the underwater telephone (gertrude).

            In the second cited article, the boat's periscope was sighted ahead of the Destroyer:

            The Navy official says that at approximately 3:30 p.m. the bridge watch aboard the San Jacinto saw the submarine Montpelier rise to periscope depth about 100 to 200 yards ahead of them. The bridge ordered an “all back,” but still collided with the sub.

            That's pretty close, I know some of my Navy's turbine ships can stop from cruising speed in about 1.5 times the ship length, the USS San Jacinto is a Ticonderoga class cruiser which is 173m length, which is 189 yards, which means they didn't have the time to stop.

            When I was in boats, especially when we were working with/against surface vessels, at Periscope Depth we either kept a continuous all round look, or an intermittent look depending on the proximity of vessels on our plot. Since the periscope was sighted, Montpelier had just come up and was taking their first look, or really botched their periscope drill. Now, before you come up to periscope depth, you certainly resolve your plot to make sure that no one will be close when you do come out of your safe depth. With the limited details given, I have to put the blame on the submarine in this case. If there are mitigating circumstances, then I would be happy to change my mind.

      • Yeah, you would.

        There are several variations of the old "your call" [] scenario though.
      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:48AM (#41647383)

        A friend who was a coastie told a story about a sub messing with them:

        The guy watching the radar grabbed the first officer because he was confused. He was seeing an occasional weak reading from behind them, a real small return like a little boat or something, fairly close, but when he'd look there was nothing out there. It was daytime, plenty of visibility, all that. It was inconsistent, not always there. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the radar. The XO saw this too, so they grabbed my friend and had him continually monitor aft to see what was going on.

        The answer? A sub goofing around. It would raise up part of its sail, wait until it got hit with the radar (they have ESM antennas) and then dive. When it came back up again, my friend flashed Morse at it with a light and the sub then surfaced and came over to say hi.

        It wasn't an exercise or anything, just a sub screwing around. Was it against Navy regs? I dunno, probably, but the sub was doing it anyways and it wasn't like anyone got in trouble. Everyone had a laugh and the sub went on its way.

        • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@got . n et> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:29AM (#41647999) Journal

          I had a friend who was an electrical engineer who worked on RF equipment at El Toro Marine air base in CA. This was in the early 80s. He was on a chopper, talking to the lead RF Engineer about jamming gear as they flew over the 405 over Costa Mesa. He did a little demo, he pointed the antenna at different cars and they were able to determine what stations these folks were listening to. Then they pick one guy out on the freeway, jammed his FM and started talking to him.

          This is GOD! I'm watching you in your blue Pontiac driving the 405. I'm talking to you, with your short brown hair, there in the 3rd lane, 4rth lane, 3rd lane... The guy started swerving all over the road. Then pulled off at the next exit parked the car and just stared all around.

          Twisted, but funny.

    • There are two kinds of seagoing vessels. Submarines and targets.

      You've been listening too hard to your bubble-head friends. I served on a destroyer, and to us, submarines were nothing but targets.
      • is it really a "target" when the strategy is to just toss a bunch of exploding, sinking, "bombs" into the water and hope you hit the sub?
      • Exactly the last sound that is heard is the sound of a splash just as the Orion is marking on top. Shortly there after a mile and a half of ocean water vaporizes into a ball of steam.

        • Shortly there after a mile and a half of ocean water vaporizes into a ball of steam.

          Oh no, definitely not. You'd need a quarter-gigaton nuke for that.

      • IME we had to break out the heavy wrenches and hammers and start banging on the hull[1] in order to give the surface guys a chance, so they could get a little practice targeting something. Somebody else's mileage may vary, of course, and I'm sure there's differences between 637's, 688's, Tridents, etc.

        [1] The more disgruntled among us *might've* chosen to bang out "F-T-N" in morse, but I can't say for sure if that ever happened.

        • Have you ever come across something called "sonar?" We don't need to listen for the noise you make, we can track you by bouncing sound off you and listening to the echos.
          • No, man, I have no idea what this "sonar" thing is. I don't know what to tell you... maybe they were constrained from using active pings, or something. I was a nuke, so it's not really an area I was heavy on. All I can tell you is, on multiple occasions, the EWS told the MM's out in the spaces to rustle up some tools and start banging on the hull. I can't imagine that was one retarded dude going rogue.

            • All I know is, if they were pinging, you'd have known it. When our sonar was active, you could hear it all over the ship.
              • by Arker ( 91948 )

                Subs have active and passive sonar too. Active pings are a two-edged sword, you can get an exact fix on the target, but you definitely give the target an absolute fix on you... it's important not to be the first one to do that without being sure you have the target(s) pretty well mapped through other means already, so it tends to be a battle of the passive systems, the best I know.

                Y'all probably know more than I on the subject, and there's probably a hidden joke there that I missed, so If you were trolling

    • by DThorne ( 21879 )

      My speculation is, someone screwed up, big time. Arguing stealth as a reason for running into a friendly is like arguing a running back plowed into his teammate carrying the ball because he's supposed to be fast.

    • My father, who dropped a lot of depth charges on Japanese submarines during WW2, begs to differ with your last sentence. As does a former colleague who took the surrender of a German submarine in WW2, and commented that he had never seen men so happy at becoming nice, safe prisoners of war.
    • Re:Uh... (Score:4, Informative)

      by smpoole7 ( 1467717 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @11:01AM (#41649389) Homepage

      Wait until the investigation determines what actually happened. Even "billions of dollars" of electronics can fail, or glitch, or human error can misread or miscalculate (Mars Climate Orbiter, anyone?).

      But I'll add this: the Montpelier is a Los Angeles-class attack sub. Their captains aren't exactly chosen for their shy, retiring natures. (I once worked with a guy who served on such a sub. He couldn't talk about what he did, but it was obvious that he'd been in some hair-raising places, doing some hair-raising things.)

      My first full-time job as a broadcast engineer was with a 100,000 watt FM in Southeastern NC. After I moved on, they built a new tower near the NC/SC border. Air Force guys would hot dog all around that tower -- they apparently took dares to fly under and between the guy wires. Sure enough, one of these guys finally misjudged a bit, nicked a guy wire, pulled the tower down and crashed the jet. (He ejected and survived.)

      Don't get me wrong: political correctness and shy, retiring natures don't really belong in the military, not if it's going to be effective. But hey; sometimes, they DO hot dog and show off. :)

  • Not much of a sailor on the cruiser. According to TFA he saw the sub 100-200 yds ahead and ordered "all back". Should have been hard a port or starboard

    • Re:Basic seamanship (Score:5, Informative)

      by humanerror ( 56316 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:58AM (#41647637)

      "All back" is how you say "hit the brakes!" on a ship.

      The ship in question displaces 9900 tons (full). It does not turn on a dime. Ordering all back shifted the pitch on the controllable-reversible screws so that they were pulling the ship in reverse (without having to reverse the rotation of the shafts, so it happens pretty quickly).

      Maneuvering to either side while doing this would have simply placed a larger portion of the ship in jeopardy by exposing it in profile to the head-on threat.

      Clearly you have never sailed a warship. (I have - actually, one that I sailed was a Belknap class CG, a predecessor of the Ticonderoga class, which is what the San Jacinto is).

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        This might be a nitpick, but as you know, there are no brakes (even figurative) on a ship. There is (figuratively) only an engine with a throttle and an automatic transmission. The torque converter is the propeller in the water. To stop, you jam the thing into reverse; the torque converter saves the drive train from self destructing, and you sweat out the sloooow effect.

    • Titanic sank because of hard a starboard. The captain made the correct choice of all back.

      • No...Titanic sank because, although the command to turn was actually given in good time, the wheel was turned the wrong way. The sad story has come out in recent years.

        There was no "All back" in those days. Props did not reverse. The Titanic had old technology triple expansion steam engines and could not manoeuvre quickly. The telegraph, I believe, had to go to stop and then full reverse when the command was acknowledged from the engine room.

      • Re:Basic seamanship (Score:4, Informative)

        by fnj ( 64210 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#41648795)

        Actually the turn was hard to port, and the command as given in modern times would have been "hard aport". The damage was on the starboard side.

        Confusion exists because in those days "starboard your helm" meant "turn the ship to port". Think of it as how you work a tiller. To turn to port, you push the tiller handle to starboard, which turns the tiller to port, which shoves the stern of the ship to starboard, which turns the ship to port ... in due course. The British were really big on historical convention.

        The actual command on Titanic by the accounts I have read was "hard astarboard", which is more than a bit mystifying until you realize it was a less time consuming way to order "starboard your helm HARD". This was all common usage in the British mechant marine at the time. It wasn't until 1932 that the Merchant Shipping Act of 1932, which brought British convention into line with the rest of the world. Since that time, no matter what service you are in, "hard aport" means "turn the wheel (and the ship) hard to port".

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:32AM (#41647317) Homepage

    Navy Times [] has better information. The collision occurred off Jacksonville, FL. The sub was surfacing to periscope depth when it was hit by the cruiser. The cruiser's bow sonar dome was damaged. No injuries.

    "A collision at sea can ruin your whole day". It's usually a career-ending event for a Naval officer. The captain of the USS Essex, which had a collision with a fleet oiler during a replenishment operation in May 2012, was removed from command. Even though the collision was apparently due to a steering malfunction, the captain is responsible.

  • Sounds like (Score:5, Funny)

    by TClevenger ( 252206 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:35AM (#41647329)
    They need a man with "Welcome Aboard" tattooed on his dick.
  • This isn't exactly unusual when you have subs and surface ships in close proximity. If I remember correctly, the Royal Navy lost at least a couple of subs which sank after colliding with a surface vessel during anti-submarine training; admittedly decades ago when they had far less expensive electronic gadgetry to tell them where the other guy was.

    • Re:To be fair (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FlyingGuy ( 989135 ) <flyingguy AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:06AM (#41647669)

      There is no fair. The CO is given complete charge of a multi-billion dollar war machine and has absolute authority over its operation and crew, therefor he has absolute responsibility for everything that happens, his fault, your fault, my fault, nobodies fault he still burns.

      • by paiute ( 550198 )

        There is no fair. The CO is given complete charge of a multi-billion dollar war machine and has absolute authority over its operation and crew, therefor he has absolute responsibility for everything that happens, his fault, your fault, my fault, nobodies fault he still burns.

        This is a system which will turn out commanders predisposed against taking risks. That may not be the type you want in a real shooting war. The Marines had this culture once - a "clean jacket", ie, no black marks in the career folder - was the only way to get promoted, so they realized they were getting an officer corps comprised of those who had always chosen the safe path.

        • I agree with your observation about the MC but a ship commander has a very few things that will get him instantly fired and this is one of those few. Other then that he is the closest thing to an absolute ruler left and those above him will do pretty much anything to preserve that.

  • with, aircraft carriers are *stupendously* noisy. In fact, one time, as they were deploying out of San Diego, they barged right over a Soviet sub waiting for them. A chunk of one of the sub's propellers was stuck in the hull for the whole deployment.

  • ...someone in the US Navy is in a world of ship.
  • Does having a faster computer make you a better programmer?

    We can give the Navy better tools, but that's just going to push them to try more difficult maneuvers. In the end, we can't get rid of human error.

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:18AM (#41647495)
    Homer: On the water, under the water. On the water, under the water. Hey, this pentagon operations coordinator gig isn't so difficult at all. On the water, under the water. On the water, on the water. D'Oh!
  • by tengu1sd ( 797240 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:33AM (#41647539)

    Generally, an incident like this will be traced to the submarine commander skipping the surfacing protocols spelled out in the exercise tasking. The submarine CO has everyone tracked, knows where everyone is and can torpedo at will. The reality is there are surfacing protocols, signals and course/speed specified to avoid collisions built into any ASW exercise. USS Leftwich [] collided with submarine in 1982 during exercises. The Leftwich CO and bridge watch were cleared and commended for rapid damage control reaction and rendering assistance. The submarine CO was selected to pursue other career options.

  • The CO and the OD (Score:5, Informative)

    by FlyingGuy ( 989135 ) <flyingguy AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:03AM (#41647657)

    just lost their jobs. For the CO ( commanding officer ) his career just ended. The JO ( Junior Officer ) that more then likely had the Deck and the Con ( In other words he was in charge of operating the sub at the moment and a single person is normally the Officer of the Deck and the Conning Officer generally referred to as the "OD" ) more then likely will get a punitive letter of reprimand ( A kiss of death) and here is why:

    Periscope Depth (PD) is ~ 65' feet of water over the Deck ( The top of the submarine you see ). When preparing to go to PD the sequence is: The Conning Officer gets a round ( a spoken list ) of contacts from the Sonar Supervisor on watch, eg: "Sonar, Con give me a round." and the list of all known contacts is told to the OD orally. In addition to there is a display repeater to show the OD what the sonar guys see on their displays.. Generally if the CO is awake the OD informs the CO that he believes all is clear to come up to PD from ~ 150'. At this point the sub is going slow enough to raise the #2 Periscope ( they have two ). So the OD raises the Scope and the takes a look around. He looks for shadows or hulls form in the vicinity. When he is satisfied he then gives the order to the Diving Officer ( Normally a Chief Petty Officer that is in charge of the Chief of the Watch, the Helmsman ad the Planesman), "Dive make your depth 65 feet." the Diving officer responds, "Make my depth 65 feet, aye sir." and he will then tell the Helmsman and Planesman to position the control surfaces to accomplish that.

    At this point the OD is just basically on the Scope spinning around looking for anything that will ruin his day and focusing most his attention to a 30 degree area in front of the sub and should be calling out to everyone in the control room, "No underwater hull shapes or forms, no shadows." When the Scope lens breaks the surface, he calls out, "Scope Clear, no close aboard contacts." This lets everyone in the Control Room chill out a little. Meantime he is still looking everywhere to make damn sure that they are not going to get run down."

    So a chunk of the officer corp is now fucked but my SWAG on this is that it will go a little deeper then that. My guess is that the Sonar Supervisor ( an enlisted guy ) will at minimum get his Watch Supervisor certification yanked ( possibly for good ) and quite possibly demoted since an Aegis Class Cruiser is VERY damned obvious to submarine sonar and the Fire Control guys should have had a continuous plot on the damn thing and the SONAR system should have had them locked on with Automatic Target Following.

    The Submarine Squadron Commander more then likely met the boat at the pier and relieved the CO on the spot as that is pretty much SOP for the Navy. The CO of a naval ship at sea is responsible for everything except when the Bow of the sub crosses over the sill of a dry dock ( at which point it shifts to the docking officer ) and when transiting the Panama Canal ( The Co takes orders from the Certified Canal Pilot as far as navigation and speed ) and even then he will still get singed of the shit goes wrong.

    And yes I was a Submarine Sonar Tech ( SSN-650 and SSN-692 ).

    • That's a pretty in depth write up. I was about to give my recollection, but as a nuke I only got to push the boat (SSN-755 and SSN-719).

      I don't know what types of ships we did ops with, but every time we did anti-sub exercises (including with helicopters dipping sonar) we had to make additional noise to provide "help" so we could be found.

      If the ships were doing what I remember as "standard practice", they both knew the the corridor they were supposed to be operating in and they both knew what time they we

      • I was about to give my recollection, but as a nuke I only got to push the boat

        You mean they had you put on the flippers, get out and push? Anyway, I'm jealous. Always wanted to see a sub from the inside (even outside wouldn't hurt, for that matter).

  • by deek ( 22697 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:04AM (#41647659) Homepage Journal

    The article reminds me of that old US/Canadian joke that circulates every so often ...

    This is the transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. The Radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on Oct. 10, 1995.

    US Ship: Please divert your course 0.5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

    CND reply: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

    US Ship: This is the Captain of a US Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.

    CND reply: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course!


    CND reply: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

  • Perhaps the AEGIS system had some Chinese made parts, which were actually bought from Russia, where the traditional equivalent of the AEGIS system is a Crazy Ivan []. Perhaps the defective AEGIS directed the ship to make a sharp turn to clear the baffles... not realizing it was installed on a cruiser.

    On the other hand, maybe it just saw a whale and froze up, like a dog with a squirrel. "Ship... ship... ship... ship... WHALE!!!"
  • This is yet another career-ender for some unfortunate officer. These incidents aren't even called "relieved" any more, they're flat-out called "firings". They have skyrocketed in recent years, so much so that the Navy Times keeps a list, updating it frequently. [] It is a long list. A few of them are justified, such as "a loss of confidence in Parkerâ(TM)s ability to command" (incompetent) or "a survey found a poor command climate" (officer is such a prick above and beyond normal officer prickishness
  • by http ( 589131 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:56AM (#41648089) Homepage Journal
    The Iranian Navy are pissing themselves laughing.
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      The Iranian Navy are pissing themselves laughing.

      Since they don't have any nuclear submarines or Aegis class cruisers.

  • Sounds more like a group hug. :)

  • It seems weird to me to call it an "Aegis"cruiser. Aegis [] is a combat system. If I recall, the Aegis is specifically a integrated system of radars, weapons, and computers.

    Broadly speaking, the surface ship involved (the USS San Jacinto []) is a cruiser []. More specifically, it's a Ticonderoga-class [] cruiser. ("Ticonderoga" is a "class ship". That is, there was an actual ship named USS Ticonderoga, and the San Jacinto has the same general design, so it's called a Ticonderoga-class ship.)

    Another class of U.S. s

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