British Nuclear Sub Damaged in Collision with Merchant Vessel

HMS Ambush (British Ministry of Defence photo)HMS Ambush (British Ministry of Defence photo)

The new British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Ambush was damaged Wednesday when it collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Gibraltar, the British defense ministry announced.

The Astute-class submarine made by BAE Systems Plc was conducting a training exercise around 1:30 p.m. local time when it “was involved in a glancing collision” with the vessel, according to the release.

While the merchant ship appeared to survive unscathed, “the submarine suffered some external damage but there is absolutely no damage to her nuclear plant and no member of the ship’s company was injured in the incident,” the release states.

An investigation of the accident is underway, according to the ministry. The extent of damage to the sub and the potential cost of repairs weren’t immediately known.

Operational in 2014, the Ambush is the second ship in her class, which is slated to include a total of seven boats designed to replace the Trafalgar-class and the Swiftsure-class subs.

The Ambush is nuclear powered, but not nuclear armed, capable of carrying up to 38 weapons, including the Tomahawk land-attack missiles made by General Dynamics Corp. and Raytheon Co. and Spearfish torpedoes made by BAE.

Earlier this week, the British parliament voted in favor of a program to replace the military’s four nuclear-armed Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines armed with Trident missiles. The cost of the Successor submarine replacement program is estimated at $54 billion (41 billion pounds) over three decades.

BAE has teamed with Rolls-Royce Plc and Babcock International Group Plc on the acquisition effort. The vessels would be built at the British defense giant’s facility in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, with the first new sub scheduled to enter service in 2028, according to the company.

With most Scots opposed to the nuclear presence in country and the recent referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the fate of the submarine base on the west coast of Scotland at Clyde Naval Base, commonly known as Faslane, remains uncertain.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.