Monday, October 25, 2010

HMS Astute Incident Just Got Worse for the Royal Navy

We can probably throw out the obsolete chart theory as cause for HMS Astute's recent grounding off Skye. Here is why...
In November 2002, the submarine HMS Trafalgar ran aground close to Skye, causing £5 million worth of damage to her hull and injuring three sailors. She was travelling 50 metres below the surface at more than 14 knots when Lieutenant-Commander Tim Green, a student in the "Perisher" course for new submarine commanders, ordered a course change that took her onto the rocks at Fladda-chuain, a small but well-charted islet.
By inference, if a small islet like Fladda-chuain was well-charted in 2002, a nearby location selected for HMS Astute's exercise 8 years after HMS Trafalgar's £5-million smashup would certainly have updated charts.
The Trafalgar board of inquiry report, released by the Ministry of Defence in 2008, said the tracing paper had hidden details about the strength of the current and some of the contours of the seabed, and warned: "The use of tracing paper overlays in inshore should be strongly discouraged." concluded: "HMS Trafalgar grounded because of human error. The submarine altered course far too early, principally because the effects of tidal stream had been underestimated and the standard of chart work was poor.

The use of tracing paper overlays in inshore should be strongly discouraged - 2002, Royal Navy inquiry report Guardian UK
However, the student conducting the navigation had, for good reason, been deprived of significant information available only to the Command safety team.
Two senior commanders, who had been in charge of the exercise, were later reprimanded at a Court Martial after admitting that their negligence caused HMS Trafalgar to run aground.
If history repeats, the commanding officer of HMS Astute will certainly face a court martial with an outcome that is likely to be worse than a reprimand, this time.
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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