A secret collision between British and Soviet submarines could’ve turned out much worse

Soviet Delta III-class ballistic-missile submarine
A Soviet Delta III-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine, seen in August 1982.

  • On May 23, 1981 a Soviet submarine and a British submarine collided in the Arctic.
  • The accident heavily damaged both submarines, but it could’ve been fatal.
  • Except for a few accounts by sailors involved, the incident has been kept quiet for 40 years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On May 23, 1981 the Soviet submarine K-211 Petropavlovsk cruised quietly at 9 knots, 150 feet below the surface of the Arctic Barents Sea.

The huge 155-meter-long Delta III (or Kalmar)-class submarine was distinguished by the large boxy compartment on its spine which accommodated the towering launch tubes for 16 R-29R ballistic missiles, each carrying three independent nuclear warheads.

K-211’s mission was hair-raisingly straightforward: to cruise undetected for weeks or months at a time, awaiting only the signal that a nuclear war had broken out to unleash its apocalyptic payload from underwater on Western cities and military bases up to four thousand miles away.

British and American nuclear-power attack submarines (SSNs), or “hunter-killers,” were routinely dispatched to detect Soviet ballistic missiles subs (SSBNs) leaving from base to discreetly stalk them.

The quieter SSNs also awaited only a signal of war, an event in which they would attempt to torpedo the Soviet subs before they could unleash their city-destroying weapons.

Mindful of this threat, at half past seven that evening K-211’s commander halted his sub and pivoted it around so that its MGK-400 Rubikon bow sonar array could attempt to pick up any submarines sneaking behind it in the ‘blind spot’ of its wake – a maneuver known as “clearing the baffles.” However, the SSBN’s hydrophones did not report any contact.

In his book “Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy’s Most Secret Service,” Iain Ballentyne described what happened shortly afterwards:

“… at 19.51, the Soviet SSBN juddered as she sustained three short glancing impacts astern and from below, each lasting only a few seconds.

Immediately ordering the boat to periscope depth, the Delta III’s sonar team detect propeller noise on a bearing 127 degrees. The contact was judged to be a submarine.

Soviet Delta III-class submarine firing missiles
A rendering of a Soviet Delta III-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine firing SS-N-18 missiles, 1987.

Having ascended to achieve separation, K-211 also turned to starboard, but the contact was lost within a couple of minutes.”

The Soviet submarine surfaced and found that something had scraped off the rubber sound-dampening anechoic tiles lining the submarine’s stern and damaged its rear hydroplane. Furthermore, fragments of metal – undoubtedly from a Western submarine – were embedded in its right screw and even had punctured its rear ballast tank. K-211’s right screw had to be replaced and its rear stabilizing fin repaired.

A Soviet investigation subsequently concluded the metal had likely come from a US Navy Sturgeon-class attack submarine ascending from below and to the rear.

The Soviet commission might have been highly interested in British press reports later that year that the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer submarine Sceptre had returned to base in Devonport with damage from a collision from a “detached glacier.”

Only a decade later in September 1991, the Sceptre’s former weapons officer David Forghan described very different circumstances for the accident when interviewed on the television program This Week.

Sceptre, or SS-104, was the fourth of six Swiftsure-class nuclear-powered attack submarines launched by Vickers in the 1970s.

The Swiftsures were shorter at 83 meters and broader than the UK’s first-generation Churchill-class SSNs, and boasted retractable diving fins on their bows instead of on their conning towers. All but the lead ship used a shrouded pump-jet propulsor instead of a conventional propeller for quieter running and had their internal mechanisms isolated with rubber to further decrease acoustic signature.

That May, the Sceptre had been trailing K-211 for some time using her Type 2001 sonar, which had an underwater detection range 25 to 30 miles or 6 to 17 miles while moving fast, when it abruptly lost its sonar contact – around when K-211 shifted its position to clear its baffles. The British submarine continued cruising ahead when its bow smashed into K-211’s tail from below.

One of the Soviet submarine’s five-bladed propellers chewed into the front hull casing of the Sceptre, tearing a 23-foot long chunk off its bow and ripping off the front of its conning tower.

In “The Silent Deep,” by James Jinks and Peter Hennesy, one officer recalled:

“It started very far forward, sort of at the tip of the submarine, and it trailed back. It sounded like a scrawling. We were hitting something. That noise lasted for what seemed like a lifetime. It was probably on a couple of seconds or so. Everybody went white.”

Normally, such damage would have triggered an automatic shutdown of the submarine’s reactor, but Sceptre’s captain engaged a “battle short” – a manual override of the safety system for emergencies – to keep his 5,500-ton submarine under control. Emergency bulkheads were sealed as the wounded submarine fled the scene, believing itself to be pursued by a Soviet submarine for two days.

British submarine HMS Superb
HMS Superb, a Swiftsure-class submarine, on the Clyde in Scotland, May 20, 1993.

Chief Petty Officer Michael Cundell recounted in “The Silent Deep,” “We just made a sharp exit and escaped under the ice without a trace.”

Upon finally surfacing, the British submariners discovered the horrifying extent of the damage, as Cundell described:

“That tear started about three inches from the forward escape hatch [Cundell]. If that hatch had been hit or damaged – it’s about 2’6″ in diameter – if that had been ruptured, then the fore ends would have shipped water which would have made the boat very heavy. We would have probably sunk.”

Sceptre limped back to its home base of Devonport at night to conceal the damage, its scars camouflaged with a fabric shroud and black paint applied by the crew.

In port, fragments from the Russian propeller that had partially penetrated the pressure hull had to be removed. The Royal Navy meanwhile peddled the glacier-collision story to the media.

After months of repairs, Sceptre finally returned to the sea that fall, now under Capt. Doug Littlejohns. In the wake of the terrifying accident, he recalled, “The submarine was broken and so was the crew.” To build back crew confidence, he took them out on a white-knuckle practice run performing deep dives and fast maneuvers.

Both K-211 and Sceptre served roughly three more decades after the accident. K-211 remained part of Russia’s smaller SSBN fleet until she was decommissioned in 2013, when the first new pump-jet propelled Borei­-class began to replace the older Deltas. K-211’s nuclear fuel was finally removed in December 2018, and she was moved to Bolshoy Kamen for scrapping in 2019.

Sceptre was involved in several notorious accidents, suffering an onboard fire, snagging Swedish fishermens’ nets and leaping out of her cradle in port during an engine test. Her pump-jet propulsor reportedly had ingested debris from K-211 that left it noisier than usual during certain performance regimes.

She was the oldest operational vessel in the Royal Navy when she was finally decommissioned in 2010. Currently, Sceptre is in long-term storage, as the Royal Navy has been unable to pay for the defueling of a single decommissioned submarine since 2004.

According to Ballentyne, “To this day the Ministry of Defence will not admit the truth.” Questioned by an MP, a minister “skillfully evaded confirming or denying there had been a collision involving the Sceptre, or for that matter, any other British submarine.”

In fact, such collisions are far from isolated incidents. Aside from numerous collisions with commercial traffic, there have been other scarier run-ins between nuclear-powered submarines, such as two incidents involving Russian and US Navy submarines in the early 1990s, and the collision of French Triomphant and British HMS Vanguard in 2009.

Today, submariners continue to stalk each other deep in the oceanic depths, tracking and studying potential foes, thereby practicing the skills they would use in times of war. It’s a dangerous mission – and most navies prefer to keep any of the mishaps that inevitably occur as far as the public eye as possible.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the US. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

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How a cheap Swedish submarine ‘ran rings’ around a US aircraft carrier and its sub-hunting escorts

USS Ronald Reagan
USS Ronald Reagan.

  • In 2005, the US Navy’s new aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, sank after being hit by torpedoes.
  • This didn’t happen in combat but during a war game pitting a carrier task force, and its anti-submarine escorts, against a Swedish sub.
  • That sub, HSMS Gotland, pulled off that feat despite being a relatively cheap diesel-powered boat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2005, USS Ronald Reagan, a newly constructed $6.2 billion aircraft carrier, sank after being hit by multiple torpedoes.

Fortunately, this did not occur in actual combat, but was simulated as part of a war game pitting a carrier task force including numerous antisubmarine escorts against HSMS Gotland, a small Swedish diesel-powered submarine displacing 1,600 tons. Yet despite making multiple attacks runs on the Reagan, the Gotland was never detected.

This outcome was replicated time and time again over two years of war games, with opposing destroyers and nuclear attack submarines succumbing to the stealthy Swedish sub.

Naval analyst Norman Polmar said the Gotland “ran rings” around the American carrier task force. Another source claimed US antisubmarine specialists were “demoralized” by the experience.

How was the Gotland able to evade the Reagan’s elaborate antisubmarine defenses involving multiple ships and aircraft employing a multitude of sensors? And even more importantly, how was a relatively cheap submarine costing around $100 million – roughly the cost of a single F-35 stealth fighter today – able to accomplish that? After all, the US Navy decommissioned its last diesel submarine in 1990.

Swedish submarine Navy
Sweden’s HMS Gotland with the USS Ronald Reagan in the background.

Diesel submarines in the past were limited by the need to operate noisy, air-consuming engines that meant they could remain underwater for only a few days before needing to surface. Naturally, a submarine is most vulnerable, and can be most easily tracked, when surfaced, even when using a snorkel.

Submarines powered by nuclear reactors, on the other hand, do not require large air supplies to operate, and can run much more quietly for months at a time underwater – and they can swim faster while at it.

However, the 200-foot-long Swedish Gotland-class submarines, introduced in 1996, were the first to employ an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system – in this case, the Stirling engine. A Stirling engine charges the submarine’s 75-kilowatt battery using liquid oxygen.

With the Stirling, a Gotland-class submarine can remain undersea for up to two weeks sustaining an average speed of 6 mph – or it can expend its battery power to surge up to 23 mph. A conventional diesel engine is used for operation on the surface or while employing the snorkel.

The Stirling-powered Gotland runs more quietly than even a nuclear-powered sub, which must employ noise-producing coolant pumps in their reactors.

The Gotland class does possess many other features that make it adept at evading detection.

It mounts 27 electromagnets designed to counteract its magnetic signature to Magnetic Anomaly Detectors. Its hull benefits from sonar-resistant coatings, while the tower is made of radar-absorbent materials. Machinery on the interior is coated with rubber acoustic-deadening buffers to minimize detectability by sonar.

The Gotland is also exceedingly maneuverable thanks to the combined six maneuvering surfaces on its X-shaped rudder and sail, allowing it to operate close to the sea floor and pull off tight turns.

Swedish navy submarine HMS Gotland in San Diego
HMS Gotland in San Diego Harbor during Fleet Week San Diego, October 1, 2005.

Because the stealthy boat proved the ultimate challenge to US antisubmarine ships in international exercises, the US Navy leased the Gotland and its crew for two entire years to conduct antisubmarine exercises. The results convinced the US Navy its undersea sensors simply were not up to dealing with the stealthy AIP boats.

However, the Gotland was merely the first of many AIP-powered submarine designs – some with twice the underwater endurance. And Sweden is by no means the only country to be fielding them.

China has two diesel submarine types using Stirling engines. Fifteen of the earlier Type 039A Yuan class have been built in four different variants, with more than 20 more planned or already under construction.

Beijing also has a single Type 032 Qing-class vessel that can remain underwater for 30 days. It believed to be the largest operational diesel submarine in the world, and boasts seven Vertical Launch System cells capable of firing off cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

Russia debuted with the experimental Lada-class Sankt Peterburg, which uses hydrogen fuel cells for power. It is an evolution of its widely produced Kilo-class submarine. However, sea trials found that the cells provided only half of the expected output, and the type was not approved for production.

However, in 2013 the Russian Navy announced it would produce two heavily redesigned Ladas, the Kronstadt and Velikiye Luki, expected by the end of the decade.

Other producers of AIP diesel submarines include Spain, France, Japan and Germany. These countries have in turn sold them to navies across the world, including to India, Israel, Pakistan and South Korea.

Submarines using AIP systems have evolved into larger, more heavily armed and more expensive types, including the German Dolphin-class and the French Scorpene-class submarines.

Indian Navy Scorpene-class submarine Karanj
The Indian Navy’s third Scorpene-class submarine, Karanj, at its launch in Mumbai, January 31, 2018.

The US Navy has no intention to field diesel submarines again, however, preferring to stick to nuclear submarines that cost multiple billions of dollars. It’s tempting to see that as the Pentagon choosing once again a more expensive weapon system over a vastly more cost-efficient alternative. It’s not quite that simple, however.

Diesel submarines are ideal for patrolling close to friendly shores. But US subs off Asia and Europe need to travel thousands of miles just to get there, and then remain deployed for months at a time. A diesel submarine may be able to traverse that distance – but it would then require frequent refueling at sea to complete a long deployment.

Remember the Gotland? It was shipped back to Sweden on a mobile dry dock rather than making the journey on its own power.

Though the new AIP-equipped diesel subs may be able to go weeks without surfacing, that’s still not as good as going months without having to do so. And furthermore, a diesel submarine – with or without AIP – can’t sustain high underwater speeds for very long, unlike a nuclear submarine.

A diesel sub will be most effective when ambushing a hostile fleet whose position has already been “cued” by friendly intelligence assets. However, the slow, sustainable underwater speed of AIP-powered diesel submarines make them less than ideal for stalking prey over vast expanses of water.

These limitations don’t pose a problem to diesel subs operating relatively close to friendly bases, defending littoral waters. But while diesel submarines may be great while operating close to home – the US Navy usually doesn’t.

Navy submarine
US Navy fast-attack submarine USS Asheville and US 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge in the Philippine Sea.

Still, the fact that one could build or acquire three or four diesel submarines costing $500 to $800 million each for the price of a single nuclear submarine gives them undeniable appeal.

Proponents argue that the United States could forward deploy diesel subs to bases in allied nations, without facing the political constraints posed by nuclear submarines. Furthermore, advanced diesel submarines might serve as a good counter to an adversary’s stealthy sub fleet.

However, the US Navy is more interested in pursuing the development of unmanned drone submarines. Meanwhile, China is working on long-enduring AIP systems using lithium-ion batteries, and France is developing a new large AIP-equipped diesel submarine version of its Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine.

The advent of cheap, stealthy and long-enduring diesel submarines is yet another factor placing carriers and other expensive surface warships at greater risk when operating close to defended coastlines.

Diesel submarines benefitting from AIP will serve as a deadly and cost-effective means of defending littoral waters, though whether they will can carve out a role for themselves in blue-water naval forces operating far from home is less clear.

Sébastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including the The National Interest, NBC News, Forbes.com and War is Boring. He holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China. You can follow his articles on Twitter.

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5 military weapons that are way older than you think

Navy destroyer Dewey Tomahawk
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey fires a Tomahawk missile in the Pacific Ocean, August 17, 2018.

Modern wars are defined by a number of technologies like guided missiles, helicopters, and submarines.

Except all three of those military technologies have been in service for hundreds of years.

Here’s the story behind five modern weapons that have been in service for hundreds of years.

1. Submarines

US Navy Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut in Japan.

The ink had barely dried on the US Declaration of Independence when an American launched the first submarine attack in history.

Ezra Lee piloted the submarine, dubbed the Turtle, against the HMS Eagle but failed to sink it.

The Turtle was sent against a number of other ships but never claimed a kill before sinking in 1776.

2. Drones

us mq-9 reaper drone
A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone at Creech Air Force Base, May 19, 2016.

The first drone missions were conducted in World War II and President John F. Kennedy’s older brother was killed in one.

These early drones were modified bombers taken into the air by a pilot who then bailed out. The plane would then be remotely operated by a pilot in another bomber.

The drones were all suicide vehicles that would be steered into enemy targets. The program had its roots in a World War I program that created the first guided missiles.

3. Guided missiles

Navy cruiser Tomahawk missile
US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George launches a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, March 23, 2003.

That’s right, the first guided missiles were tested in World War I.

Orville Wright and Charles F. Kettering invented the Kettering Bug, a modified plane that used gyroscopes to monitor and adjust its flight to a pre-designated target.

Once the Kettering reached its target, its wings would fall off, the engine would stop, and the craft would fall to the ground with a 180-pound explosive. But the missile had a lot issues and the war ended before it saw combat.

4. Hand grenades

Army National Guard soldier hand grenade
A New Jersey National Guard soldier throws a practice hand grenade during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, September 20, 2019.

When grenades became a staple of World War I trench warfare, it was actually a revival of the weapon.

They had already made a big splash in the 700s when soldiers in the Byzantine Empire figured out they could pack Greek Fire into stone, glass, and ceramic jars.

5. Helicopters

Air Force UH-1P Huey helicopter Cambodia
Two US Air Force Bell UH-1P helicopters fly into Cambodia in 1970

An iconic weapon of the Vietnam War actually saw combat in World War II.

The first helicopter rescue was in Burma in Word War II and the Germans flew a number of helicopter designs.

The British had flying cars that used helicopter-type rotor blades to stay in the air.

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The apparent sinking of an Indonesian submarine with 53 people on board is among history’s worst submarine disasters

The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402
The Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402

  • The Indonesian navy has declared that its missing submarine KRI Nanggala-402 is presumed sunk.
  • The submarine was carrying 53 passengers when it disappeared several days ago.
  • The apparent loss of the submarine and its crew puts this among the worst submarine disasters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The apparent sinking of an Indonesian naval submarine and loss of dozens of lives this week puts the incident among some of the worst submarine catastrophes.

Indonesia’s diesel-powered submarine KRI Nanggala-402 disappeared during a training exercise Wednesday with 53 people on board. Indonesian and international search-and-rescue assets have been desperately looking for the submarine for days in hopes of finding it and saving the crew.

Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a ceremony honoring the 72nd anniversary of the country's Armed Forces Day at Cilegon, Banten province, Indonesia
Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala-402 during a 2017 ceremony

What they found instead appears to be evidence of a worst-case scenario. Search-and-rescue teams found items, such as prayer rugs, a grease bottle, part of a coolant pipe, and a torpedo component believed to be from the submarine. These items would only be in the water if the sub had broken apart.

Together with the oil slick, a possible sign of a fuel tank rupture which was found early in the search near the point of the submarine’s final dive, the debris is evidence the submarine has sunk, the Indonesian navy said.

“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk,'” Indonesian Navy Chief Yudo Margono said at a press conference Saturday. All passengers are presumed dead, the AP reported.

At this point, the submarine has likely run out of oxygen, as it was only equipped with about 72 hours of air, according to the Indonesian military.

The Indonesian navy has said it believes that the submarine, a 1,400-ton vessel made by Germany in the late 1970s and refitted in 2012, may have sunk to a depth of 2,000 feet, putting the vessel likely well past the point where the hull could withstand the crushing pressure of the water around it.

Bryan Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and current defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider “if a small diesel submarine like this Indonesian one goes down in 2000 feet of water, it is unlikely to survive.”

As KRI Nanggala 402 has not yet been found, it is still not clear what exactly happened to the submarine, but if the vessel has indeed sunk with all 53 passengers, it would put this terrible tragedy among some of the worst submarine disasters.

Submarine ARA San Juan navigates for an expedition after the mid-life upgrade reparation at Tandanor shypyard on June 02, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Submarine ARA San Juan navigates for an expedition after the mid-life upgrade reparation at Tandanor shipyard on June 02, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

ARA San Juan

On November 15, 2017, the Argentine Navy diesel-electric submarine ARA San Juan disappeared while on patrol with 44 crew members on board. The navy later determined that an anomalous noise detected shortly after the submarine’s last transmission was “consistent with an explosion.”

The submarine was eventually found a year later at a depth of 3,000 feet in the South Atlantic.


In 2003, a Chinese diesel-electric submarine with hull number 361 suffered a serious mechanical malfunction during a training exercise that led to the deaths of 70 sailors. The crew is said to have suffocated, though details are limited.

This picture, dated March 1995, shows Russian submarine 'Kursk' at its base in Vidyayevo
This picture, dated March 1995, shows Russian submarine ‘Kursk’ at its base in Vidyayevo

K-141 Kursk

On August 12, 2000, the Russian nuclear-powered submarine K-141 Kursk vanished in the Barents Sea. Russian authorities later determined the vessel sank after a torpedo on board unexpectedly exploded. The first blast then triggered the explosion of several other warheads.

The Russian naval vessel went down with 118 sailors on board. Although twenty-three Russian sailors are believed to have survived the initial catastrophe, the Russian navy was not able to rescue them in time.

Undated picture taken in St. Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets
Undated picture taken in St. Petersburg showing the nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets

K-278 Komsomolets

On April 7, 1989, the Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine K-278 Komsomolets sank in the Norwegian Sea after a devastating fire broke out.

Forty-two of the submarine’s 69 crew members died in this accident. Some perished aboard the ship. Others that made it out died of exposure to the frigid waters before they could be rescued.


On April 8, 1970, a fire crippled the Soviet nuclear-powered submarine K-8, forcing the crew of 52 sailors to abandon the vessel. When a rescue ship arrived on scene, the crew returned to the submarine, but while the ship was under tow in the Bay of Biscay, it sank in rough seas with all hands lost.

The submarine 'Eurydice' in the harbor of Toulon, France, February 9, 1968
The submarine Eurydice in the harbor in Toulon, France on February 9, 1968.


On March 4, 1970, the French diesel-electric submarine was lost in the Mediterranean while diving off Cape Camarot. The French defense ministry assessed that the vessel sank along with its entire crew of 57 sailors after receiving reports of an explosion. Fuel and other debris were found floating on the surface.

USS Scorpion
USS Scorpion

USS Scorpion

The American nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously vanished in the Atlantic Ocean with 99 sailors on May 22, 1968. No one knows exactly what happened to the Scorpion. It was found five months later 400 miles southwest of the Azores at a depth of 10,000 feet.

The Scorpion was one of four submarines that were weirdly lost in 1968.


On March 8, 1968, the Soviet diesel-electric ballistic missile submarine sank in the Pacific Ocean with 98 sailors on board. The US found the submarine six years later at 16,000 feet and covertly recovered part of the vessel.

Undated photo of the "Minerve", a "Daphne" class submersible during an exercise
Undated photo of the “Minerve”, a “Daphne” class submersible, during an exercise


On January 27, 1968, the French diesel-electric submarine Minerve and its crew of 52 sailors disappeared in bad weather while returning to port.

The submarine was found in 2019 off the French port city of Toulon at 7,800 feet.

INS Dakar

Just a few days prior to the sinking of the Minerve, the Israeli diesel-electric submarine INS Dakar inexplicably sank in the Mediterranean, resulting in the death of 69 sailors. The Israeli submarine was found in 1999 at 9,500 feet, but the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown.

Nuclear-powered submarine the 'USS Thresher' steers through the sea, early 1960s.
The nuclear-powered submarine the USS Thresher steers through the sea in the early 1960s.

USS Thresher

On April 10, 1963, the US Navy experienced its most devastating submarine disaster when the nuclear-powered submarine USS Thresher sank in the Atlantic Ocean and imploded. All 129 American personnel on board were killed in the deadly accident.

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Hopes of rescuing 53 sailors fade as missing submarine now believed to be ‘sunk’ after debris discovered, Indonesia Navy chief says

indonesian submarine
The Indonesian submarine with 53 people aboard is believed to have sunk about 60 miles off the northern coast of Bali Island after going missing on Wednesday.

  • Items have been discovered from the missing Indonesian submarine, incuding prayer rugs.
  • The submarine is now presumed to be ‘sunk’, Indonesia’s Navy Chief of Staff said.
  • Hopes of rescuing the 53 crew members who were on board have now faded.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Items have been discovered from the missing Indonesian submarine, Indonesia’s Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono said on Saturday.

Rescuers found a grease bottle, parts of a torpedo, and prayer rugs from the submarine, the Associated Press reported.

“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk,'” Margon said during a press conference.

Hopes have now faded of rescuing the 53 crew members who were on board the submarine.

The submarine, the KRI Nanggala-402, disappeared without a trace on Wednesday off the island of Bali.

It went missing during a torpedo drill, a navy spokesperson told Insider.

Countries from around the world chipped in to help find the missing naval submarine,Insider’s Madison Hall wrote.

Time was running out to save the crew members as the vessel only had enough oxygen to last until Saturday, Insider’s Cheryl Teh reported on Thursday.

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Pentagon says the US military is sending air assets to help Indonesia look for its missing submarine

indonesian submarine
The Indonesian submarine with 53 people aboard is feared to have sunk about 60 miles off the northern coast of Bali Island on early Wednesday after losing contact.

  • The Pentagon announced it is sending air assets to search for Indonesia’s missing submarine.
  • A desperate search has been underway since the the KRI Nanggala-402 disappeared during training.
  • A number of other countries around the world have offered assistance as well.

The US military is sending air assets to help Indonesia search for a naval submarine that has been missing since it failed to check in Wednesday morning, the Pentagon said.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of Indonesia’s lost submarine, and our thoughts are with the Indonesian sailors and their families,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Thursday evening.

“At the invitation of the Indonesian government, we are sending airborne assets to assist in the search for the missing submarine,” he said.

He added that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has plans to speak with his Indonesian counterpart Friday “to discuss how else the United States can be of assistance.”

Indonesia’s diesel-powered submarine KRI Nanggala-402 disappeared during a training exercise Wednesday with 53 people, more than the boat is built to carry, on board. It is unclear at this time what the exact status of the missing submarine is.

The Indonesian navy has said it believes that the submarine, a 1,400-ton vessel made by Germany in the late 1970s and refitted in 2012, may have sunk to a depth of roughly 2,000 feet, putting the vessel beyond the reach and possibly past the point where the hull can withstand the crushing pressure of the water around it.

Bryan Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and current defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that “if a small diesel submarine like the Indonesian one goes down in 2,000 feet of water, it is unlikely to survive” given that it is well beyond the vessel’s maximum depth.

But, on the chance that this is not the case and it has survived, the search is a race against time given that the vessel will run out of oxygen by early Saturday morning. The boat only had 72 hours of breathable air available.

The US is not the only country that has offered to help. France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, South Korea, and India have also offered assistance.

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Biden gives Taiwan a boost with submarine technology it can’t build on its own

Taiwan navy submarines
Taiwanese submarines at a navy base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, March 21, 2017.

  • Taiwan’s plans to build its own submarine fleet received a boost after the US approved the sale of the sensitive equipment.
  • The US has been reluctant to sell advanced defense technology to Taipei, but Biden appears to be continuing Trump’s approach.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Taiwan‘s programme to build its own submarine fleet has received a boost after the US approved the sale of three key pieces of equipment.

Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed on Tuesday that Washington had approved export permits – including the first arms sales to the island under the Biden administration.

“On the delivery period, we need to follow the procedures in due course and I can’t say when exactly they will arrive. After all, there are operational procedures,” Chiu said ahead of a legislative session, adding that the authorities would ensure the work was completed on schedule.

Chiu did not identify the items to be fitted, but ministry officials had said there were three major types of equipment – digital sonar systems, integrated combat systems and auxiliary equipment system (periscopes) – that the island could not produce and must rely on US technology.

Taiwan navy submarine helicopter Asia
A S-70C helicopter over a SS-793 Hai Lung diesel-electric sub during a drill outside a naval base in Kaohsiung port, southern Taiwan, January 14, 2014.

The indigenous submarine project was initiated by the government in 2016 to bolster the island’s ageing fleet of four submarines with eight new diesel-electric models. The first prototype is budgeted to cost NT$49.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) and scheduled to be launched in July 2024 before entering service the following year.

Work on a prototype vessel started at the CSBC Corporation’s shipyard in Kaohsiung, in November.

The approval came just ahead of a meeting this week by senior officials from Washington and Beijing.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to meet mainland officials including China’s foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi on Thursday during a stop in Alaska, according to the State Department. It will be the first high-level in-person contact between the US and mainland China under the Biden administration.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will join the meeting in Anchorage as will Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting will follow Blinken’s first overseas trip to Japan and South Korea, key US allies.

A military source said the Trump administration had approved export permits for the digital sonar and integrated combat systems in December and January, while the Biden administration approved the export of the periscope system last month.

Chiu declined to comment on whether the exports were a sign of closer relations between the US and Taiwan and whether Joe Biden shared Donald Trump’s commitment to defending the island.

Taiwan’s relations with the US – which switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979 – improved sharply under Trump, who adopted a confrontational policy towards the Chinese mainland.

Washington used to be cautious about supplying sophisticated military technology to Taiwan for fear it would be acquired by Beijing. But before Trump stepped down in January, he approved more than US$18 billion worth of arms sales for Taiwan, including some sophisticated items.

Taiwan navy's SS-793 Hai Lung diesel-electric submarine emerges from underwater during a naval demonstration near a military navy base in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, in this January 22, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang
A Taiwanese navy SS-793 Hai Lung diesel-electric sub surfaces during a demonstration near a navy base in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, January 22, 2013.

Chieh Chung, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, said the submarine project had the support of the US.

“The Trump [administration] had already approved the export permits for two types of key equipment before he stepped down and as the two sides have a consensus on the sub construction it is left to the Biden [administration] to complete the remaining procedure to give the green light for the last item,” Chieh said.

He said that regardless of whether Trump or Biden was in charge, the US saw the mainland as a key competitor and had asked its allies, especially those near China, to strengthen their defensive capabilities to reduce the burden on the US in the Asia-Pacific region.

“This is why the US is willing to supply those key technologies to support Taiwan’s sub project,” Chieh said, adding Washington also stood to profit from arms sales to the island.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its territory that must be returned to its control – by force – if necessary, has repeatedly warned the US not to cross the red line on Taiwan, including supplying weapons and having official contacts.

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US Navy sailors have been battling a bed bug infestation aboard an attack submarine

The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut
The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut has been battling bed bugs.

  • One of the Navy’s most powerful attack submarines has been battling a bed bug infestation.
  • USS Connecticut sailors have been dealing with this since at least December, possibly longer.
  • The Navy says it responded quickly and effectively, but some sailors have said help came too late.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sailors aboard Seawolf-class submarine USS Connecticut, one of the US Navy’s most capable attack submarines, have been battling an bed bug infestation.

Naval Submarine Force Pacific told Insider that the Navy launched efforts to find and eliminate the difficult-to-kill bed bugs after the problem was first reported last December, explaining that the “physical presence of bed bugs” was found in February.

Sailors told Navy Times, which first reported the infestation, that the problem actually started last March while the submarine was participating in an Arctic training event. Family members of Connecticut sailors told the Kitsap Sun that the infestation has been an issue for about a year.

“People were getting eaten alive in their racks,” a petty officer assigned to the submarine told Navy Times. The sailor added that the situation got so bad sailors were sleeping in chairs or on the floor in the mess.

A sailor told Navy Times the outbreak negatively affected people’s sleep, a problem for sailors with a stressful job. “If someone’s sleep deprived because they’re in the rack getting eaten alive by bed bugs, he could fall asleep at (the controls) and run us into an underwater mountain,” the sailor said.

When the submarine returned to port, some sailors took to sleeping in cars to avoid their racks, the Kitsap Sun reported.

Bed bug feeding on human skin
Bed bug feeding on human skin

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown, blood-sucking insects that burrow into beds and other furniture, and they are exceptionally resilient. The bugs feed at night, often biting any exposed skin while people asleep. They do not fly but instead crawl quickly across floors, ceilings, and walls.

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center says that “immediate action should be taken if an infestation is discovered.”

Sailors told Navy Times that when they first raised concerns about bed bugs aboard the Connecticut, the command dismissed them because they “didn’t have proof.”

“Navy criteria for treating submarines or ships requires physical presence of bed bugs to establish existence,” Navy Submarine Force Pacific spokeswoman Cmdr. Cynthia Fields told Insider.

She said that multiple inspections of the submarine after reports of possible bed bugs came in last December produce “no evidence of bed bugs.” Even then, “the command continued to pursue resolution,” Fields said, adding that “the Navy takes the safety and health of Sailors very seriously.”

The spokeswoman told Insider that “daily inspections have occurred since the initial discovery of the insects” last month. “All berthing on board was searched, to include removing all bedding and thoroughly inspecting all mattress seams and folds.”

“All linens and privacy curtains were laundered or replaced to destroy the insects,” Fields said, explaining that bed bugs cannot survive the high temperatures of standard clothes dryers.

Mattresses in the affected areas were replaced, all clothes were laundered, and affected areas were thoroughly cleaned.

She said that the response to the infestation was overseen by Navy Preventative Medicine technicians and Navy entomologists, who directed the application of “deadly countermeasures.”

Fields said that pesticide was applied twice after an initial application of diatomaceous dust. The entomologists then took steps to seal off areas where the bugs might escape the pesticide before putting down more diatomaceous dust to draw out any remaining bed bugs.

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut leaving port
The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut leaving port

During the extensive treatment process, living areas were set up pierside at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton for Connecticut sailors. Navy entomologists have since recommended that sailors return to their racks.

“All appropriate countermeasures have been taken with plans firmly in place to address further breakouts underway if they occur,” Fields said.

The Kitsap Sun, however, reported that the bed bugs have not yet been completely eradicated. Connecticut sailors told the Navy Times that they were being forced back into their racks, claiming that the command is “using us as live bait…to see if (the bed bugs) are still there.”

At least one sailor characterized the command response to the infestation as “employee abuse.”

The Navy did not answer Insider’s question of whether or not it will investigate allegations that the command reacted improperly to sailor concerns about an infestation aboard the Connecticut.

The service did say, though, that Navy Environmental and Preventative Medicine Unit personnel, Preventative Medicine Technicians, and the ship’s corpsman “addressed crew concerns” and repeated that “the Navy takes the safety and health of Sailors very seriously.”

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Chinese sailors are suffering from serious psychological disorders aboard South China Sea submarines, a recent study found

The Jin-B Project 094B ballistic missile submarine takes part in a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's Navy, in the Yellow Sea
The Jin-B Project 094B ballistic missile submarine takes part in a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s Navy, in the Yellow Sea

  • A recent study by Chinese researchers found that Chinese submariners in the South China Sea are suffering from “serious” psychological disorders.
  • A little over one-fifth of surveyed sailors showed signs of mental health issues.
  • The operating environment, as well as the challenges of life aboard a submarine, put submariners at a higher risk for psychological issues.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Chinese submariners patrolling the contested South China Sea are suffering from “serious” psychological disorders, according to a recently published study first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“One group of military personnel at high risk of mental health problems is the submarine force, especially in the South China Sea,” five Chinese researchers affiliated with the Institute of Military Health Management at Naval Medical University in Shanghai wrote in an article published earlier this month in Military Medicine.

108 out of 511 surveys of Chinese submariners in the South China Sea showed signs of psychological disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to hostility, the study found.

The results were compared to mental health norms among male service members across the Chinese armed forces and were found to be “significantly higher.”

“This study demonstrates for the first time that soldiers and officers in the submarine force in the South China Sea are facing mental health risks and suffering from serious psychological problems,” the researchers concluded.

China claims the vast majority of the disputed South China Sea, and it has increased its naval patrols of the waterway over the years to reinforce its sovereignty claims.

“Studies have demonstrated that military maneuvers can produce psychological and physiological stress,” the Chinese researchers explained, adding that life aboard a submarine can also lead to mental health issues.

They wrote that submariners, who tend to have higher rates of neuropsychiatric illness, “are confined to tiny living spaces and exposed to manufactured air and artificial light,” and “the submarine environment entails prolonged isolation, which can involve 60 to 90 days of submerged cruising.”

The study also found that sailors aboard nuclear submarines tended to be at a higher risk for psychological disorders.

Long overlooked in militaries around the world, mental health is an important part of determining the overall readiness of a force.

For China, psychological evaluations were not included as part of the military recruitment process until 2006, and mental health services for Chinese troops are still works in progress.

Recognizing that life aboard naval vessels can be challenging for sailors, the US Navy began embedding psychologists aboard aircraft carriers in the 1990s, and it saw a dramatic decrease in emergency evacuations and administrative separations for misbehavior.

This important program, known as the embedded Mental Health Program (eMHP), was later extended to additional surface vessels and appeared to be similarly effective.

An eMHP for the Navy’s submarine force was piloted in 2013 in Norfolk, Virginia and showed positive results, reducing annual unplanned losses from 22 to 2 by 2016, when the program was expanded to provide greater mental health support to the larger submarine force.

The Navy also set up eMHP services for Marines and the special operations forces as well.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, according to the latest Department of Defense assessment of the Chinese military, is the largest naval force in the world, but its capabilities still trail behind those of the US Navy.

The overall quality of the Chinese navy is improving though as China builds new classes of ships and submarines and pushes forward with efforts to build a world-class fighting force by the middle of this century.

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