British, French nuclear subs crash in Atlantic: reports

16th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Britain and France’s ministries declined to comment on reports of their nuclear submarines colliding in the Atlantic Ocean, but maintains nuclear security had not been breached.

LONDON – British and French nuclear submarines collided in the Atlantic Ocean earlier in February, media reports said Monday.

Britain's HMS Vanguard and France's Le Triomphant were both damaged in the crash in the early hours of 4 February, but there were no reports of damage to the nuclear parts, said the Daily Telegraph and The Sun newspapers.

France's defence ministry said on 6 February that Le Triomphant, a ballistic nuclear submarine, was damaged when it hit an object under water earlier that week. It did not identify the object.

The British sub has now been towed to its Faslane base in western Scotland for repair, reports said.

The two submarines are equipped with sonar to detect other vessels. Both vessels - between them carrying about 250 sailors - were reportedly submerged and on separate missions when they crashed.

Britain's Ministry of Defence refuses to comment on submarine operations but a spokesman said: "The UK's deterrent capability has remained unaffected at all times and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety."

French officials made no comment on the latest media reports.

France's defence ministry said on 6 February that no one was injured and there was no security threat from the incident it acknowledged.

Le Triomphant, one of France's four nuclear-armed submarines, hit the object - said at the time to be probably a container - while submerging, and immediately returned to base at Ile-Longue, near Brest in northwest France.

"The sonar dome situated in the front was damaged," said a statement from the navy, adding that the incident "did not result in injuries among the crew and did not jeopardise nuclear security at any moment."

Each vessel is 150 metres long and 13 metres in diameter, and can carry up to 48 nuclear warheads on a maximum of 16 missiles.

The BBC, which also reported the collision, said the vessels were both "seriously armed".

HMS Vanguard, launched in 1992, is one of four nuclear submarines operated by the British military as part of its Trident system, and one is always on deterrent patrol.

France and Britain are two of the world's five declared nuclear powers, along with the United States, China and Russia.

France has maintained a sea-based nuclear deterrent force since 1971. Britain is planning to renew its Trident submarine nuclear missile system, at a cost of about 20 billion pounds (EUR 22 billion).

[AFP / Expatica]

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