Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Submarines - The Coming Chaos Beneath the Waves

In the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October based on Tom Clancy's 1984 thriller, future U.S. Senator Fred Dalton Thompson (R-TN) plays Rear Admiral Joshua Painter on board aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. One of the greatest lines of the entire movie is when Admiral Painter says, "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we will be lucky to live through it."

The chaos of battle to which Adm Painter likely refers is bad enough for submarines actually engaged in hostile actions. Submariners have also been dispatched to Eternal Patrol by units of their own navies (examples: WW1 and WW2).

Yet, since the very first submarines, even when battles are over, things tend to get out of hand with tragic results (familiar examples: USS Thresher and USS Scorpion, Kursk).

And things have gone surprisingly wrong even in unfamiliar accidents:
March 1904 - HMS A-1
2 May 1966 - USS Nautilus (lucky?)
19 February 2009 - Bumper Subs

With more and more navies buying old subs and leasing or building new ones things are going to get much more chaotic under the waves for the least experienced submariners whether or not their vessels (diesels, AIP, nuclear) happen to be designed and built very reliably.

When will the next foreign sub disaster occur? No one can really say, but the outlook for Iran is looking more perilous than even China's to this observer. Brazil? --Long wait to estimate.

Submarines are always silent and strange.



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