USS Newport News Collides With Japanese Tanker
Updated information on the collision can be found here.
From a Fifth Fleet press release:
No US sailors or merchant crew were injured when a US Navy submarine and a commercial cargo vessel collided in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday evening January 8, 2007.Other reports are here and here, but none of the press reports I saw had picked up that the Newport News was submerged at the time of the collision. If so, this eliminates any question on who had the right of way (as we saw in the USS Philadelphia vs. M/V Yaso Aysen collision), since a submerged submarine is always required to stay clear of surface craft. I obviously haven't heard any details yet, but expect to hear people wondering why a submarine couldn't avoid such a huge ship as the M/V Mogamigawa (a 317m supertanker, pictured below):
The collision between USS Newport News (SSN 750) and the Japanese-flagged motor vessel Mogamigawa occurred at approximately 10:15 in the evening (local time) in the strait of Hormuz while the submarine was transiting submerged.
Overall damage to the USS Newport News is being evaluated. The propulsion plant was unaffected by this collision.
The incident is currently under investigation.
USS Newport News is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to the US Navy Central Command area of responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).
Believe it or not, the bigger ships are sometimes more difficult to avoid; you can hear them, but the relatively greater depths of the propellers tends to muffle the sounds, and makes them sound further away (although reports that the Newport News hit the tanker's stern make it harder to explain away). Reports indicate that the tanker was outbound from the Gulf, so she would have been fully laden, and drawing about 100 feet at the keel. So, it's possible the Newport News wasn't even at PD, and just clipped the tanker during normal submerged ops.
I'll wait for more information before making any more guesses, but based on initial reports, I don't think this will be an easy one to defend for the Submarine Force. (And having it be a Japanese surface ship just makes it more embarrassing -- although JDS Asashio's recent collision with a Panamanian-flagged tanker may make the Japanese more understanding of the difficulties of avoiding surface traffic in a submarine.)
Staying at PD...
Update 2254 08 January: This Reuters story has confirmation from the tanker's owner that there were no injuries or oil leak from the M/V Mogamigawa, which is good news.
Update 2248 09 January: Not much new information today. I realized I mis-read the stats on M/V Mogamigawa, so while her "depth" is about 100 ft., her "draught" (draft) is only about 65 feet. Therefore, it's likely the Newport News was actually on her way to PD when she hit the tanker. There's also this "analysis" piece from ABC News that has such important information as, after mentioning that the sub was submerged, that "(t)he submarine's radar was probably turned off, and its sonar was most likely in a "passive mode" — set to pick up echoes from other vessels, but not to send out any signals of its own." I love how the press always seems surprised that submarines don't operate their radar underwater. (I also love the concept of passive sonar picking up "echoes" from other ships -- so what's generating the initial noise that "echoes" off the ship? Why not just say "noise"?)
Also, Lazlong has a good post on this collision, as well as the 2nd anniversary of the San Francisco grounding from one who was there.