Submarines: March 16, 2005

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The American submarine, USS San Francisco, is still undergoing temporary repairs at Guam, before it returns to the United States, under its own power, for some $100 million dollars of work to repair the damage received during a underwater collision in January. The San Francisco had undergone a $200 million overhaul (and nuclear refueling) three years ago. 

Assigning the blame for the collision is becoming an interesting exercise in how bureaucracies operate. Apparently a satellite ocean mapping project had spotted the sea mount, which the San Francisco hit, several years ago. But the navy never updated its charts. Whoever failed to get the charts updated would appear to be at fault. Its long been known that nuclear subs, operating at their normal depths, were in danger because so much of the open oceans had not been properly mapped. This was an accepted risk. But it appears the navy may hang the blame on the San Franciscos officers. They would be blamed for not taking more frequent depth soundings, and not proceeding more slowly, in an area that had not been definitively mapped. Its easier to pin it on the ships officers, as they are of much lower rank than the navy official with responsibility to get the maps updated.

 


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