HMS Ambush ambushed off Gibraltar

The Astute class nuclear powered [but not nuclear armed] British submarine, HMS Ambush has had a coming together, while submerged, with a merchant ship off Gibraltar.

Her conning tower is damaged on the forward side suggesting that the submarine was not far below the surface when the collision occurred.

The Ministry of Defence, which has reported the incident taking place two days ago, in the early afternoon of Tuesday h July, says that there has been no damage whatsoever to the ship’s nuclear reactor and no injury to any of her crew. The merchant ship concerned is also said to be undamaged.

It has to be a matter of concern that so advanced a submarine, the second built of the new Astute class of hunter-killer submarines and commissioned in March 2013, was apparently unable to ‘see’ another vessel in close proximity.

Back on the night of 3rd–4th February 2009, the class leader of the ageing Vanguard class of British nuclear armed [Trident] submarines  – now to be replaced – suffered a submerged collision in the Atlantic with France’s equivalent submarine, Le Triomphant – with neither evidently aware of the approaching presence of the other.

That was more understandable because both of these submarines have a degree of ‘invisibility’ when on operations and both are elderly.

But Ambush is our very latest technology and even if she was in ‘invisible’ mode, the merchant vessel involved in this collision would certainly not have had such a capacity and ought to have been ‘seen’ by Ambush.

How, moreover, can we be sure that with, say, a very large container ship travelling faster, it too would not have been ‘seen’ by Ambush – with far more substantial consequences for crew and reactor.

In October 2010 the class leader, HMS Astute herself, was grounded inshore on a gravel bank below the Skye bridge, during illicit shore trips by her crew. After that highly embarrassing incident,  with every cameraman, pro and am, that could get there hanging over the bridge above going clickety click at the detail of the high security vessel,  Astute’s commander, Andy Cole, was removed from seagoing service and deployed to desk work.

Is the culture of professionalism in the Royal Navy subject to creeping casual dilution? And while there may be no damage to the nuclear reactor on Ambush, the damage to the conning tower will not be cheap to repair.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Banana republic?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    A.Salmon July 21, 2016 3:48 pm Reply
  • A convenient reminder to the Gibraltarians that despite their enthusiasm for the EU, they are first and foremost a naval dockyard and the sun and sangria they enjoy are courtesy of Her Majesties Britannic Government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    jake July 21, 2016 9:46 pm Reply
  • I doubt that being able to detect the merchant vessel was the issue given the advanced sensors available on board, more likely it was a lamentable loss of situational awareness on the part of the Officer of the Watch(not unlike the situation of Ambush going aground) and will no doubt involve a lot of interviews without tea or biscuits and impede or stop dead some careers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    db July 21, 2016 10:49 pm Reply
  • I get the impression that these submarines are incapable of being aware of their positions relative to their close quarter surroundings. Groundings ! Fouling fishing boat nets ! Hitting yachts ! Hitting commercial vessels ! And all the other times we don’t know about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    Malcolm Kirk July 22, 2016 8:06 am Reply
    • Commercial shipping has a rather worse record for hitting terra firma, each other or hapless yachts than submarines do and fishermen are amongst the most irresponsible when it comes to keeping a lookout according to the COLREGs, as a look at the MAIB annual reports would show. Everyone must do better to keep themselves and others safe at sea.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

      db July 22, 2016 11:28 pm Reply
  • They’re basically idiots, totally out of control. Who can forget the FV Antares disaster. They should never be submerged in coastal waters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Murdoch MacKenzie July 22, 2016 6:29 pm Reply
  • Lucky that the whole heap of shit didn’t end up on the bottom.

    That would certainly have given the Europeans something to think about with a crippled UK nuke lying on the bottom.

    Ah well, better a nuclear disaster off the coast of Spain then off the coast of Scotland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Willie July 23, 2016 6:30 pm Reply
  • Yes, and these Europeans better know who is the power in the area. Spain now knows they could easily have gotten it.

    Time for these Europeans to wind their necks in, hic !

    As a recent conservative said, we should not forget, we won the war, Germany lost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Willie July 23, 2016 6:41 pm Reply

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