Crash Reminds Us of Dangers of Nuke-Armed Subs

Cold War is over, but dangerous machines still stalk the oceans
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2009 4:59 PM CST
France's Le Triomphant submarine, seen at sea in an undated photo, was involved in a collision with a British sub recently; both reportedly carried nuclear missiles.   (French Defense Ministry)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The Cold War is over, and the threats of terrorism and economic collapse have made it easy to forget about the possibility of sudden, total annihilation by nuclear weapons. Until, that is, last week’s collision between French and British nuclear submarines, Clemens Höges writes for Der Spiegel. It's a reminder that 40 ballistic missile subs—including 14 belonging to the US and 15 to Russia—still stalk our oceans, almost undetectable, even to sonar, because they make "less noise than a crab."

Britain and France only have four vessels each of the caliber of the Vanguard and Le Triomphant—ballistic-missile subs designed to put the “mutual” in mutually assured destruction. The two managed to crash in the Atlantic because the French don’t trust anyone else enough to share information on submarine maneuvers. Nether do the Russians, whose 567-foot Dimitry Donskoy, the world's largest, carries enough nuclear warheads to simultaneously destroy dozens of cities like New York.