Crash involving a UK nuke-sub was averted at the last moment

An apparent sensor malady almost led a Vanguard-class nuclear submarine from the British Navy to plummet to hazardous depths, reports. This shocking incident was detailed by The Sun newspaper, which gathered their information from reliable sources. 

The submarine was primed for Atlantic patrol, housing a crew of 140 when its depth sensors faltered. This malfunction almost directed the submarine, armed with formidable Trident 2 ballistic missiles, towards a precarious “danger zone”. 

According to the Sun report, the disastrous plummet was halted due to the quick thinking of sharp-witted engineers on board. Utilizing a backup depth gauge, they discerned the uncontrollable dive and acted quickly. 

Crash involving a UK nuke-sub was averted at the last moment
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Sun source emphasized that, technically, the submarine remained at a depth within its operational range. However, during any planned deep dive, all crew members are shifted to action stations—a step that hadn’t been taken. The shift in depth was unintentional, as the submarine started sinking increasingly deeper. The potential disaster that could’ve unfolded had the submarine continued its descent doesn’t bear thinking about. 

For the sake of national security, the Sun has chosen to withhold specifics regarding the depth of the submarine’s descent and its exact identity. The British military leaders have confirmed an ongoing investigation into this incident, preserving details under wraps. 

Despite the alarming occurrence, a Navy spokesperson remained silent on the matter, simply stating: “Our submarines continue to be deployed around the world protecting our national interests.” 

The UK possesses four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines constructed in the 1990s: HMS Victorious, HMS Vanguard, HMS Vigilant, and HMS Vengeance. 

Presently, as per the newspaper’s findings, only two are currently active whilst another is benched for repairs. The fourth is engaged in rigorous sea trials post-mending. 

The UK’s Integrated Security, Defense, and Foreign Policy Review of 2021 has declared that these submarines are scheduled for replacement by the Dreadnought-class submarines by the early 2030s.

Vanguard design

The genesis of the Vanguard class can be traced back to the early 1980s when they were conceptualized by the Ministry of Defence, one of their final acts as a Royal Navy warship design authority. 

The initial designs were then expanded upon by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering [VSEL], now known as BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines, who were based in Barrow-in-Furness. 

Crash involving a UK nuke-sub was averted at the last moment
Photo credit: The Sun

These submarines were intended to be nuclear-powered ballistic missile carriers from the get-go, with the capacity to carry UGM-133 Trident II missiles. Consequently, their missile compartment shares a design similar to the American Ohio class, which also utilizes the UGM-133 Trident II. 

This particular need led to the Vanguard class dwarfing its predecessor, the Resolution class, which was equipped with Polaris missiles. Weighing in at nearly 16,000 tonnes, the Vanguard-class submarines are the Royal Navy’s heaviest ever. 

The enormous size of the Vanguard class called for the construction of the Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow-in-Furness, built specifically for them between 1982 and 1986.

In preparation for the Vanguard-class submarines and their Trident II missiles, both the HMNB Clyde and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport at Faslane underwent extensive redevelopment starting in 1985. The Rosyth dockyard was also significantly improved. 

This redevelopment encompassed improved “handling, storage, armament processing, berthing, docking, engineering, training, and refitting facilities” with an estimated spend of £550 million. 

The inaugural boat, HMS Vanguard, had its keel laid by Prime Minister Thatcher on 3 September 1986 at the Devonshire Dock Hall. It was subsequently launched in 1992 and commissioned in 1993. The discussion of whether the fourth vessel, Vengeance, should be scrapped took place in 1992, but ultimately, the Ministry of Defence placed an order for it in July 1992 and it was commissioned in 1999.

Crash involving a UK nuke-sub was averted at the last moment
Photo credit: Royal Navy

Vanguard weapons/systems

The Vanguard-class submarines have the capacity for 16 ballistic missile tubes, though since the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, only eight of these are utilized by the Royal Navy, each containing the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles laden with up to eight nuclear warheads. 

These submarines also boast four, 21-inch [533 mm] torpedo tubes and are equipped with the advanced Spearfish heavyweight torpedo. This arsenal allows them to engage threats below the water and on the surface, with an impressive engaging range of up to 65 kilometers [40 mi; 35 nmi]. To further enhance their defense, they have two SSE Mark 10 launchers capable of deploying Type 2066 and Type 2071 decoys and are installed with a UAP Mark 3 electronic support measures [ESM] intercept system. 

Another standout feature is the Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar. This multi-mode, multi-frequency system includes the 2046, 2043 and 2082 sonars. Specifically, the Type 2043 is a hull-mounted active/passive search sonar, the Type 2082 a passive intercept and ranging sonar, and the Type 2046 a low frequency, towed array sonar providing passive search capabilities. 

Modernizations to the fleet are ongoing, with the sonars set to incorporate open-architecture processing via commercial off-the-shelf technology. A Type 1007 I-band navigation radar facilitates navigational searches, and plans are underway to equip the submarines with the new Common Combat System. They feature two periscopes, the CK51 search model and the CH91 attack model. Both periscopes come installed with TV and thermal imaging cameras as well as traditional optics. 

The Vanguard class originally pioneered a unique Submarine Command System [SMCS] which was subsequently adopted by the Trafalgar class.


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