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No “Safe Driver” Discount For Navy

A little more that two years after a US sub collided with a supertanker in the Strait of Hormuz, a US sub collides with US vessel:

Two U.S. navy vessels — a nuclear-powered submarine and an amphibious ship — collided during the early morning hours Friday in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, the U.S. navy’s 5th Fleet reported.

The military said in a statement that the incident occurred around 1 a.m. local time on Friday (5 p.m. ET Thursday), when the USS Hartford, a submarine, and the USS New Orleans, an amphibious ship, collided.

The Strait of Hormuz is a very narrow passage that is crowded with ships and boats; it is no place for a submarine. Both of the subs were Los Angeles class fast attack submarines.


1 Badtux { 03.20.09 at 5:23 pm }

But if you’re trying to get from the Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf or vice-versa, you kinda don’t have a choice other than to cruise through the Strait of Hormuz, unless your submarine has wheels fitted to it and takes a shortcut across Saudi Arabia…

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2 Bryan { 03.20.09 at 7:38 pm }

Which poses the question, why put a nuclear attack submarine in shallow water, like the Persian Gulf, when on the other side of the Strait you have the deep waters of the Gulf of Oman and you don’t run the risk of supertanker wakes sucking you to the surface, as happened in the 2007 incident, and may have happened this time.

3 Kryten42 { 03.20.09 at 10:00 pm }

I know quite a bit about the SSN-688 class submarines (actually, there were 3 distinct LA ‘classes”: SSN-688 – SSN-718, SSN-719 – SSN-750, and SSN-751 – 773) from my time at GD, including what was the Electric Boat division.

The 688 was NEVER designed for shallow, narrow straits like Hormuz! In fact, there was a standing order to stay well away from them. Only in dire emergency would it have been allowed to traverse the Strait, certainly never be put on station there! They were designed to hunt the USSR’s boomers (primarily the Delta II & III classes) in open ocean and under ice packs. The original LA series has mostly been scrapped (deactivated) because by 2000 they were needing a refit and refueling which (from memory) would have cost well over $200million per sub. It was a lot cheaper to deactivate them, and they didn’t have vertical launch tubes for Tomahawks like the two more recent series. The only possible reason for an LA sub to be in Hormuz is so they can launch TLAM’s at Iran. They would be useless to attack any shipping, they can’t maneuver in the constricted waters. Any sub commander that would take his sub into waters like the Strait of Hormuz is a bloody fool and should be court marshaled along with the morons that ordered it. If I were a member of his crew, I’d have asked for a transfer ASAP! These sub’s have a huge blind spot aft (behind them) and wouldn’t know if even a supertanker was about to run them over. They have to deploy a sonar boom which in congested waters like the Strait isn’t at all possible. EIther that, or they have to stay shallow (within 8-12m of the surface) so they can use the periscope to see if anything is behind them, or stay on the surface which makes them a sitting duck, a very expensive duck! 🙂

I used to have great respect for the USN, now they are just as stupid as the rest of the US Gov and services.


4 Kryten42 { 03.20.09 at 10:16 pm }

I should add that the later series (751-773) was designed to hunt the faster, quieter Delta IV & Typhoons which had a much more sophisticated detection suite and could easily pick up the original LA series. 😉 As of 2004 I believe that Russia still has 7 Typhoons and several Delta III & IV’s operational. I can think of a much better use for the remaining LA sub’s!

5 Bryan { 03.20.09 at 10:24 pm }

There is no unique mission that would require a fast attack submarine in the Gulf. It was and is a stupid idea to put a deep water vessel in that single-exit pond. They can’t use speed or depth to defend themselves, and it’s damn hard to hide anything that big when it need to stay out of the wakes of carriers and supertankers.

It had to be running shallow to have had a collision with another vessel which is not a good place to be.

They will hang the commanders, but the people who ordered the sub in there will get away again.

They are using resources in the wrong way in efforts to justify their existence by demonstrating “extra” capabilities, that they really should only use in a dire emergency.

6 Badtux { 03.20.09 at 10:27 pm }

I think the deal is that they’re trying to keep track of the Iranian subs, which is stupid because Iran has only three Kilo-class subs and it ought to be easy enough to keep track of them with surface assets without risking a very expensive nuclear attack submarine. As Kyrten42 puts it so bluntly, somebody in the Pentagon needs a new brain putting a LA into the Persian Gulf…

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7 Kryten42 { 03.20.09 at 11:12 pm }

That’s true. The Kilo class were designed for anti-shipping & anti-submarine missions in shallow water. They are very quiet and deadly. The US developed frigates and coastal anti-sub boats explicitly for the Kilo. They also have very good anti-sub helo’s that can be stationed on Destroyers, Cruisers or land that would have been a lot better to keep watch on the Kilo’s. Seriously, the only possible (though moronic) reason for stationing an LA hunter-killer there is to launch TLAM’s at Iran.

I’d seriously hate to consider what would happen if an LA had a serious accident or attack that breached the reactor and flooded the Strait with radioactive material.

Bloody Idiots(tm) 😉

And come to think of it, I think there are only 5 operational Typhoons… 7 Delta IV’s. Been awhile since I’ve thought about them. 😉 Still… 1 Typhoon can carry 20 ICBM’s with up to 7 nuclear MIRV’s and a range of up to 10,000KM (depending on the number of MIRV’s installed). The Typhoon is unique in that it can launch ICBM’s even when dry (from the dock for example). This is an important consideration because even if a Typhoon isn’t *seaworthy* it can still launch it’s ICBM’s. The US boomers have to be *wet* (I think at a depth of at least 12m). The Typhoon can also carry several cruise missiles launched from the 650mm torpedo tubes.

Class dismissed. 😉 😆

8 Kryten42 { 03.20.09 at 11:36 pm }

Here’s a little more info which to me makes this even more suspicious.

The Hartford (SSN 768) is one of the latest 688I (for improved) class sub. They are much quieter and incorporate an advanced BSY-1 sonar suite combat system and the ability to lay mines from their torpedo tubes. It has 12 vertical launch tubes for Harpoon or Tomahawk ASM/ALM’s. It also has the MIDAS (Mine and Ice Detection Avoidance System). They are designed and configured to hunt Typhoons especially in under-ice operations. Their forward diving planes have been moved from the sail structure to the bow and the sail has been strengthened for breaking through ice. It cost approximately $1bln to build and about $30mln / year to operate.

This is definitely *not* a boat that should be anywhere near the Strait of Hormuz! Talk about bad mission tasking! Someone needs to be locked up for this.

9 Bryan { 03.21.09 at 12:44 am }

We have overwhelming ASW assets in the Gulf without a submarine. It makes the job more difficult if you have your own subs in the area. At this point all of the techs should have the signatures of the individual Iranian subs memorized.

I would think that with all of the recent chest beating by Vladimir we would need the polar group for patrols under what’s left of the ice. The reduced ice cap increases the activity up there and requires more assets for surveillance. This is like having the Marines amphibs and the Louisiana Guard’s high water vehicles running around in the desert, another feature of this mess.

This happens because they have been putting political flag officers in charge of real missions, while the people who know what they are doing retire.