USS OKLAHOMA CITY (SSN 723), Collision, 13 November 2002        


Sub Bumps Ship in Mediterranean
Wed Nov 13, 7:31 PM ET
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Navy submarine bumped a surface ship while ascending to periscope depth in the western Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday, officials said.

No one aboard the submarine was injured, according to a statement released by the U.S. Sixth Fleet at Gaeta, Italy.

It was not immediately clear what vessel was struck by the submarine, the USS Oklahoma City. When the nuclear-power attack submarine reached the surface, it spotted a merchant ship and attempted to make radio contact. The merchant ship did not respond, and, appearing in no need of assistance, it left the area.

The sub, which was operating as part of the USS George Washington battle group, continued to search for other ships in the area. The Navy said the sub would proceed to an unidentified port for any repairs.

The accident recalled a February 2001 collision between the submarine USS Greenville and a Japanese fishing vessel off the coast of Hawaii that killed nine Japanese. That set off a storm of protests in Japan and a high-profile investigation of the Greenville's crew, which was faulted for not spotting the Japanese boat.

It is standard procedure for a submarine's crew to take sonar readings and use other established methods to ensure that no obstacles are on the surface before the sub ascends to periscope depth and reaches the surface.

In Wednesday's accident, the sail of the Oklahoma City - the vertical structure containing a periscope station - "came into brief contact" with the hull of a vessel east of the Strait of Gibraltar, the Sixth Fleet announcement said. It happened in international waters as the Oklahoma City was rising to periscope depth.

No other details on the circumstance of the accident were available Wednesday. An investigation is under way.

In describing the known damage to the sub, Navy officials in Washington said the radar mast on the sail section would not raise, one of the periscopes would not lower and some doors to the sail were jammed.

The Oklahoma City is a Los Angeles-class attack submarine commissioned in 1988 and powered by one nuclear reactor. It normally has a crew of 12 officers and 115 enlisted sailors and its home port is Norfolk, Va. The submarine is usually armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, Mk-48 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles.