Sub, amphib collide in Hormuz Strait; 15 hurthttp://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/03/navy_collision_033009/
Posted : Friday Mar 20, 2009 11:50:58 EDT
Two U.S. warships are out of action in the Middle East after the attack submarine Hartford and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans collided in calm seas while transiting the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf in the early morning hours Friday.
Fifteen sailors on Hartford were injured but were able to return to duty, according to Navy officials. No injuries were reported aboard New Orleans.
The exact circumstances of the 1 a.m. incident are unclear. The Hartford was “submerged but near the surface” at the time of the collision, a source told Navy Times.
Both ships are now limping into a local undisclosed port, said Cmdr. Jane Campbell, spokeswoman at 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
“They’re both underway on their own power, and both are in the [Persian] Gulf at this point,” she said. “Hartford is on the surface and will remain on the surface until she’s in port.”
Damage to the wounded ships is being evaluated.
Campbell said initial assessments show two ballast tanks on New Orleans were ruptured, resulting in seawater flooding that required the ship to be stabilized. A fuel tank was also ruptured, causing an estimated spill of 25,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel into the gulf.
“She had flooding in three distinct compartments,” Campbell said. “The flooding is secure, and the ship is making way on her own power.”
Hartford suffered “visible” damage to the sail and to a bow plane. Campbell could not say if components of the sail such as masts and periscopes are damaged as well, but the sub will make a surface transit into port.
“It’s important to point out that Hartford’s [nuclear] powerplant was not affected in this at all,” she said. “We’ll be doing a full incident investigation report as well as a JAGMAN investigation.”
This is the third recent collision involving a U.S. submarine in the Strait of Hormuz or the Persian Gulf.
On Jan., 8, 2007, the attack submarine Newport News and the Japanese oil tanker Mogamigawa collided in the Strait of Hormuz, a busy strategic chokepoint that runs between Iran and Oman. Both ships were headed south and out of the gulf at night when the submerged submarine was overtaken by the faster-moving tanker sailing on the same route.
The movement of the large tanker caused the smaller submarine to be drawn into the ship’s surface wake by the intermingling pressure areas created by their hull washes — a phenomenon known in physics as the “Venturi effect.”
In a previous incident, on the night of Sept. 25, 2005, the attack submarine Philadelphia, while traveling on the surface, collided with a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Bahrain. No one was injured in the collision.
Both Philadelphia and Newport News underwent repairs in Bahrain before returning to homeport.
Hartford and New Orleans are members of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group. Another ship from the group, the dock landing ship Comstock, was in the area at the time of the collision. Boxer remains in the Gulf of Aden on counterpiracy patrol. It and most of the other strike group departed San Diego Jan. 8.