Two Navy sailors killed in nuclear sub explosion

21st March 2007

Two British sailors have been killed in an accident aboard the nuclear submarine HMS Tireless, the Ministry of Defence said.

The accident took place while the submarine was submerged under the Arctic icecap during a joint British-American exercise, a spokesman said.

Two sailors have been killed onboard the Royal Navy nuclear submarine HMS Tireless

A piece of air-purification equipment in the forward section of the submarine was thought to be responsible for the accident, he added.

The accident took place on board the Trafalgar class nuclear submarine at 4.20am on Wednesday.

The forward compartment was damaged in the accident and the crew were forced to surface quickly through the ice.

A third submariner was also injured and was airlifted to a US military hospital.

His injuries are not life-threatening, the MoD said.

Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent offered his sympathy to the families of the two men who died and paid tribute to the crew of HMS Tireless.

He said: "I very much regret that this incident has occurred and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of the men who have lost their lives.

"I also wish to pay tribute to the crew of HMS Tireless that this incident has been dealt with and contained so professionally."

The nuclear reactor of HMS Tireless was unaffected and the ship itself was not in danger, a spokesman added.

HMS Tireless is a hunter-killer submarine and does not carry nuclear missiles. The families of both dead sailors have been told.

An MoD spokesman said the piece of equipment which malfunctioned was fitted to all Trafalgar class submarines.

He said its use on other boats had been restricted until safety checks could be carried out.

The equipment had not failed before and had a 100 per cent safety record, he added.

It was not essential to the safe running of the submarine.

HMS Tireless was launched in 1984. The piece of air-purification machinery thought to have failed was fitted as part of an update in 2001.

The accident on HMS Tireless is not the first time the vessel has suffered problems.

The submarine, first launched in March 1984, is the third of seven 'Trafalgar' Class SSN submarines in the Royal Navy, and usually carries a crew of 130.

Tireless's commanding officer is Iain Breckenridge, who joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in September 1984.

Since her launch, the submarine has completed a number of patrols from the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean, including several under-ice expeditions.

She has five torpedo tubes and is capable of firing Spearfish wire-guided heavyweight torpedoes as well as Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.

According to the Ministry of Defence, Tireless allows "truly independent operations anywhere in the world", limited only by the amount of food on board.

The onboard atmosphere is constantly monitored, while an electrolyser produces oxygen and absorbers remove gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

But the Trafalgar Class submarine has suffered a number of problems in her 23 years.

The vessel, which has a crew of around 130, began a refit in early 1996 which was not completed until 1999.

Just a year later, a fault was discovered in HMS Tireless, forcing all 12 hunter-killer nuclear submarines in the UK fleet to undergo intensive inspections.

The submarine had limped into Gilbraltar in May of that year with a leak in pipework leading from the nuclear reactor system.

She was docked at The Rock for almost a year while repairs were carried out, during which time tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets fearing there may be a radiation leak from the nuclear-powered submarine.

Tireless eventually returned to the UK once repairs were completed, but in 2003 she was forced to return to base after crashing into an object - thought to be an iceberg - and suffering minor damage to her ballast tank while on patrol in the Arctic.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 22nd, 2007 at 04:37 AM..