The Navy submarines left all at sea

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The Independent Online

Today the Royal Navy's nuclear-powered submarine HMS Astute ran aground on a shingle bank during sea trials. But it is not the first time a Royal Navy submarine has got into difficulties while at sea.

* On May 26 2008 HMS Superb was left with "significant damage" after being involved in a collision, described as bringing the vessel to an immediate halt, in the Red Sea. A Royal Navy court martial, in March this year, heard Commander Steven Drysdale, his navigation officer Lieutenant Lee Blair and officer of the watch Lieutenant Commander Andrew Cutler misread their charts and failed to accurately read the depth of a pinnacle on the map.

Blair and Cutler were given a severe reprimand for their role in the accident. The hearing in Portsmouth was told Commander Drysdale was moved to a desk job and also lost the opportunity to take up the high-profile position of Royal Navy staff officer for submarines in Washington DC shortly after the incident. Commander Drysdale was given a reprimand.

* In June 2003 a Summary of the Board of Inquiry into a collision involving HMS Tireless concluded the submarine had collided with an iceberg while on patrol in the Arctic in May 2003. The iceberg was not detected by passive sonar, which was in part due to the "very high levels of biological and general ice noise". The risk of colliding with the iceberg could have been reduced if the submarine operated at a lower depth.

Under recommendations, the summary said: "Advice should be given that, unless operating ice avoidance sonar, submarines in areas where there is a risk of icebergs should keep the maximum depth commensurate with the navigational and operational conditions."

Other recommendations included a review of academic research to find out if climate change or another mechanism is having an impact on the number of icebergs.

* Three crewmen were injured when the hunter-killer submarine HMS Trafalgar hit the sea bottom during an exercise off the Isle of Skye in October 2002. A report in May 2008 revealed a series of basic navigational errors in an exercise for three students on board.

The Board of Inquiry heavily criticised the use of tracing paper, which was laid over the top of a chart and led to vital information being obscured. The nuclear reactor of the boat was not affected but the cost of repairs to the hull amounted to £5 million.

Commander Robert Fancy, the commanding officer, in charge of navigation, and Commander Ian McGhie, responsible for the training course, were court martialled and reprimanded for negligence following the incident.

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