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earlier burfling | later burfling

Ships that go bump in the night

A new press release from COMFIFTHFLT/COMNAVCENT confirms just how nasty last week's collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD-18) was:

While overall damage to both ships is being evaluated, investigators believe Hartford rolled approximately 85 degrees during the collision.

Despite the roll, engineering investigations have confirmed the propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision.

However, Hartford sustained damage to its sail and periscope, as well as the port bow plane.

New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank. Divers have determined the resulting hole is approximately 16 by 18 feet in size. There was also interior damage to two ballast tanks.

They build those boats tough, folks. It's one thing to roll a kayak or a Sunfish-type sailboat over on its side; it's another thing entirely to roll seven thousand tons of submarine.

Even though the gator freighter [1] suffered the big hole in the hull, I suspect that her repairs will be quicker and easier than those for the sub. Presumably, the Navy has access to the drydock facilities in Bahrain (some of which are sized for supertankers), and cutting new hull plates is relatively straightforward when the plates in question are quarter-inch mild steel. I'd be rather surprised if anybody in Bahrain knows how to properly weld the very specialized, high-tensile-strength steel used for 688-class submarine hulls.

No word yet on why this happened, although there are a couple of official investigations mentioned later in the press release. At this point, my best SWAG [2] is that Hartford was trying to keep astern of New Orleans. New Orleans suddenly reduced speed and turned hard to port - perhaps her bridge crew saw a fishing boat or some such dead ahead, and they were trying to avoid a collision. Hartford didn't pick up on the maneuver in time and got smacked by New Orleans' hull.

[1] Slang for an amphibious assault ship, such as the New Orleans. LPDs such as New Orleans have a well deck which can be flooded to allow Marine amphibious assault vehicles to swim out and hit the beach.
[2] Stupid, Wild-Ass Guess