2 nuclear subs checked at Groton after collision during training

(Providence Journal; 03/24/98)

Navy officials were saying little yesterday about a collision last week between two U.S. Navy nuclear submarines off the coast of Long Island.

No one was injured and there was no damage to either vessel's nuclear systems, according to Lt. John Wallach, a Navy spokesman. He said damage overall was minor, and both vessels motored under their own power to Groton, Conn., following the collision.

The ships involved were the San Juan, a fast-attack, 688-class submarine based in Groton, and the Kentucky, a Trident ballistic missile carrier based in Kings Bay, Ga. Each carried a crew of about 130 sailors.

"An investigation is in progress, and damage is being assessed," Wallach said yesterday. The collision occurred at 9:30 a.m. Thursday during a classified exercise at least 125 miles offshore, Wallach said.

He characterized the collision between two U.S. vessels as "extremely uncommon. This is a very, very rare occurrence."

The San Juan returned to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. The Kentucky, which is too large to navigate the Thames River, was examined at the Electric Boat shipyard before returning to its home port, in Georgia, on Saturday.

Electric Boat spokesman Neil Ruenzel said the Kentucky's hull was checked by Navy divers and "certified okay to sail back home" to Georgia. Hesaid Electric Boat stands ready to help with repairs to the San Juan, but that the Navy has not yet decided what needs to be done or who will do it.

One source familiar with Navy operations speculated that the two vessels might have been involved in a cat-and-mouse training exercise often performed close to port.

The large, silent Trident is designed to carry nuclear intercontinental ballistic weapons and escape detection by hugging the ocean floor; the smaller 688 is designed to detect and attack enemy submarines.

In a typical exercise, the Trident would have been trying to hide from the  688. The bigger vessels are most vulnerable to detection when entering or leaving port, the source said.

Wallach wouldn't comment on whether the Trident was armed with nuclear weapons, but did say no hazardous material of any sort was released during the collision. "There was no damage to any weapon systems or any of the propulsion areas," he said.

He said the Navy takes such incidents extremely seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation. In the past, such incidents have ended the careers of one or more of the skippers involved.

"Whether culpability lies with anyone remains to be seen," Wallach said.

2 Nuclear Subs In Collision Near N.Y.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer; 03/21/98)

The Navy is investigating the collision of two U.S.nuclear-powered submarines, one capable of carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles, south of Long Island, N.Y.

The Navy won't confirm whether the Trident submarine was fitted with nuclear missiles at the time of the accident Thursday morning, but Lt. Com. Mark McCaffrey, a Navy spokesman, said the missiles, if they were aboard, were "in no danger."

Mishaps, while rare, highlight the danger of submarine accidents because of their potential for swift loss of   life.

"As a sub commander, you have to be alert at all times," said a former submarine skipper who asked not to be named.

"The Navy is so concerned about these accidents because if you're not alert,
you can easily lose all hands."

Navy officials said there were no injuries reported when the USS Kentucky, a Trident sub based in Kings Bay, Ga., and the USS San Juan, an attack sub based at Groton, Conn., collided at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

Both submarines, each with a crew of about 130 sailors, are now in Groton where a senior Navy officer is conducting an investigation.

Navy officials wouldn't say if the subs were submerged.

If past submarine accidents are any indication, the collision off Long Island probably occurred when one or both submarines were at periscope depth, less than 75 feet from the surface.

Except for using a periscope when a submarine steams near the surface, the boats move through the water with practically no visual guides.

Unlike the 1960s science-fiction TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," there is no picture window the crew can peer through to see where they are going. There are, however, networks of sonar systems aboard that serve as eyes, ears and seeing-eye dogs for the crew.

Submarines are designed for optimal use in deep water. The Trident is used for concealing and securing the nation's nuclear arsenal near the bottom of the ocean. The attack submarine is designed to hunt down the Russian equivalent of the Trident in deep water.

The periscope is not risk-free.

"If the two subs were at periscope depth and on an intersecting course, it would be very difficult for them to see one another, perhaps a one-in-a-thousand chance," said Capt. Ned Beach, a retired submarine commander.

Two U.S. submarines involved in minor collision off New England coast

NAVY WIRE SERVICE - A WIRE (NWSA) - 20 March 1998 -
NWSA20mar-1. by Navy Submarine Base Groton Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NWSA) -- Two U.S. submarines were involved in a minor collision off the New England coast March 19 while conducting routine training. There were no injuries and only minor damage reported.

The incident took place at approximately 9:30 a.m., south of Long Island, N.Y. The submarines involved were the Groton, Conn.-based USS San Juan (SSN-751) and the Kings Bay, Ga.-based USS Kentucky (SSBN-737).

Both submarines returned to Groton under their own power for more extensive checks. The Navy will conduct an investigation to determine the cause.


2 U.S. submarines collide off Long Island

March 19, 1998  Web posted at: 11:44 p.m. EDT (2344 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two U.S. Navy submarines collided Thursday morning while on training maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean, a senior Navy official told CNN. The ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky was sailing on the ocean's surface off the coast of Long Island, New York, when it was struck by the attack submarine USS San Juan. The San Juan was submerged at the time, the official said. The accident occurred at about 9:30 a.m. There were no injuries reported as a result of the clash, which the official described as "a minor bump".

An excerpt from the presentation of Rear Admiral Alexei Ovcharenko, Russian Navy, at the meeting The Future of Russian-U.S. Strategic Arms Reductions: START III and Beyond, February, 1998, Cambridge, MA

...The situation has changed. We no longer carry out operations against US submarines, nor do we track them continuously. We are calling on the US to sit at the table to work out an agreement on safe operations of submarines when they are in proximity to each other. We have raised this issue with U.S. Government officials, Ashton Carter and Franklin Miller. The fact is that the United States continues activities and training near Russian territorial waters. The US also continues to track Russian submarines

One example: in 1997, we were carrying out a complex and dangerous procedure. Two ballistic missiles (SS-N-20s) were exploded in flight, with the three stages falling to sea. We informed the United States of this procedure, and even invited American observers, who filmed the events. Yet, at the same time, a U.S. nuclear submarine was in close proximity, less than four kilometers away. This was, of course, very dangerous-the stages of the missile could have hit the submarine. So, our submarine signaled the U.S. submarine to back off. We had to use explosions to get them to go away. Whatever the U.S. submarine commander was thinking, he should be punished for this behavior, and it should be determined who sent him to that vicinity...

Moscow Files Complaint With U.S. Over Sub Incident

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 5, 1998; Page A16

MOSCOWóRussia has complained to the United States about a mysterious submarine incident that occurred last December in the Barents Sea as the Russian navy was destroying ballistic missiles under the START I treaty.

On Dec. 3 and 4, a submerged Russian Typhoon submarine launched 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of a destruction routine under the arms control treaty. The missiles, which did not carry nuclear warheads, were blown up about 30 seconds after launch at an altitude of about two
miles, Russian officials said.

The Russians had announced the planned destruction, which is unusual; missiles are usually taken apart and cut up. Russian officials said the explosion method would be cheaper.

The Russians said the destruction was observed by seven U.S. inspectors aboard an anchored hydrographic vessel.

But the Russians complained to the U.S. Embassy here that another submerged submarine appeared on the scene. They say it was an American Los Angeles class submarine, apparently gathering data about the launches.

A senior Russian navy official said the visiting sub was within four miles of the Typhoon. A Russian vessel signaled the submarine to get out of the way. It did not respond. After that, a helicopter dropped depth charges which were detonated, and the sub left, the official said.

The U.S. Navy refused comment. But officials indicated that the submarine was not American. The Russian officials said they were sure it was a U.S. submarine.

Russia complains over US monitoring of missile destruction

(Agence France-Presse; 03/16/98)

MOSCOW, March 16 (AFP) - The US embassy here confirmed Monday that Moscow had protested the monitoring by a US submarine of a Russian programme of  ballistic missile destruction over the Barents Seas last December.

The spying incident, reported by the US magazine Newsweek, led to a chase of  the offending vessel by Russian warships which lasted several hours.

Richard Hoagland, spokesman for the US embassy here, said: "The Russian side expressed concern to the US embassy about the report, but this required no official response."

Moscow is understood to have lodged a request for information with US officials, a move analysts said was a low-key method favoured by diplomats to register disapproval.

However, Hoagland said he was unable to confirm whether a US vessel had been involved in the December incident.

The missiles were destroyed in line with the START I nuclear disarmament treaty which took effect in December 1994. Around 20 missiles were blown up in mid-air, with US military specialists invited by Russia in attendance.

Under the START I treaty, Russia has so far disposed of over 800 launchers for intercontinental ballistic missiles, approximately 2,000 rockets, 20 nuclear submarines and over 50 heavy bombers, Interfax reported.

Russia complains of US submarine after missile destruction

(Agence France-Presse; 03/14/98)

WASHINGTON, March 14 (AFP) - Russia complained of a US submarine spying on missile destruction in the Barents Sea in December, and even gave chase, the news magazine Newsweek reported Saturday.

The chase lasted for hours, and sources later told Newsweek that the submarine was not American but probably British or French, the weekly said.

French, British and US officials all declined comment.

"We do not discuss submarine operations," the US official said.

The submarine allegedly was spying on Russian ballistic missile submarines in the Barents Sea as they launched missiles to destroy them as part of the START arms agreement.

There were also US experts monitoring the destruction with Russian approval.

S. Korean Boat Collides With U.S.Sub

(AP Online; 02/11/98)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP)A South Korean fishing boat sank after colliding  with a nuclear-powered U.S. submarine off South Korea's south coast today.

The boat's five crewmen were rescued, the U.S. military command in Seoul  said.

The submarine was not damaged in the pre-dawn collision and was sailing to the southern naval port of Chinhae with the rescued fishermen, said Jim Coles, a command spokesman.

Coles said the submarine was based in Japan as part of the U.S. 7 th Fleet. He declined to disclose further details.

South Korea's national news agency Yonhap said the submarine La Jolla was on its way to Chinhae for supply and maintenance when it collided with the fishing boat seven miles off the coast.

Police in Chinhae, 210 miles southeast of Seoul, were investigating the accident.