Tag Archives: Trafalgar Class

‘People were going to die’: submarine crew trapped in searing heat after catastrophic systems failure

Dozens of crew members were trapped on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine in 60C heat after the air conditioning system failed, forcing HMS Turbulent to dive to 200m to cool down

HMS Turbulent

Temperatures on HMS Turbulent soared to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity Photo: SWNS

Dozens of sailors were overcome by heat exhaustion when temperatures soared on board a British nuclear submarine after a “catastrophic” air-conditioning failure, it has been disclosed.

Eight submariners were left in a “life-threatening condition” as temperatures on HMS Turbulent rose to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity, while engineers battled to fix the fault.

The previously undisclosed incident in the Indian Ocean has come to light three years later, after the commanding officer at the time gave a dramatic account of the crisis and revealed the situation was so critical he thought crew members were going to die.


Commander Ryan Ramsey (SWNS)

Cdr Ryan Ramsey, the submarine’s commanding officer, said: “I genuinely thought there was going to be a loss of life on board.

The 44-year-old, who recently retired from the Royal Navy, said the extreme temperatures left crew “just collapsing everywhere, many at their work stations”.

The hunter killer submarine was only three hours from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on May 26, 2011, when the incident took place.

The boat had surfaced and Cdr Ramsey was on the bridge when engineers told him the air conditioning plants had “catastrophically” failed.

As he went below he was met by an “incredible blast of heat,” and the first casualties soon began to be taken ill.

Within hours many areas of the 275ft submarine had become makeshift sick bays, as 26 of the crew were taken casualty, he said.

“We had casualties in the control room, the engine room, the bridge, the wardroom, cabins, and the toilets and showers. It was absolutely terrifying, and I’m not afraid to say I was scared.

“Walking around the boat I saw true fear in my crew’s eyes.

“I saw genuine concern because we simply did not know how we were going to get through it.

“I felt like the world was against us.

“I was looking up and asking ‘when are you going to give me a break to gain the upper hand here?’

“People were crying, and it was all about survival.”

Cdr Ramsey said it was the first time such a malfunction had been reported on a vessel of this type – and the crew didn’t understand the exact cause of the problem. The heat meant the crew couldn’t reach the problem areas because the equipment was too hot to touch.

A decision was made that it was impossible to return to Fujairah with a “broken” nuclear submarine because of the political fallout. The crew opened two of the submarines hatches to release some of the heat and put some of the casualties outside, but with temperatures on the surface reaching 108F (42C) there was little respite.

The air conditioning system was used to cool sensitive equipment on board, which began to shut down.

A decision was made to dive to cooler water to reduce the heat.

“It was touch and go before we dived as to what might happen to us and the submarine,” he said.

“We couldn’t do anything. I could have radioed for help but it would have taken hours for anyone to reach us. In that time people would have died.

“We were alone in our steel tube. There really was no-one to call.”

Diving to a depth of more than 200 metres, the temperatures finally began to drop and within 24 hours systems had returned to normal and the crew were recovering. HMS Turbulent, based in Devonport, resumed her deployment.

Cdr Ramsey told the Plymouth Herald: “There’s not a day that goes by that I do not think about what happened. The pain of seeing my crew like that.

“But when I think back to that time I quickly remember how fantastic they all were in dealing with the situation.

“We recovered from it. They did exactly what they had to do, and looked after the team.”

Cdr Ramsey left the Royal Navy in March after 25 years’ service and said he had chosen to reveal the incident to highlight how “incredible” the secretive submarine service is.

He said: “The medical team was made up of one Petty Officer medic, another medic, and six or seven first-aiders and they did an unbelievable job under intense pressure.”

“That particular experience brought out some amazing actions from people who are rarely recognised, if ever, for what they do.”

HMS Turbulent, a Trafalgar Class submarine, was decommissioned in July 2012 at the end of a career of nearly 30 years.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the submarine’s nuclear reactor had never been at risk.

He said: “In 2011, a technical issue in HMS Turbulent resulted in a temporary rise in temperature on board the submarine.

“The problem, which caused no damage to the submarine or its reactor systems, was resolved by the crew after a few hours using standard operating procedures.

“A number of personnel who showed signs of heat related symptoms were treated by the submarine’s medical team.

“All recommendations resulting from the investigation into the incident have been fully implemented.”

Source – The Daily Telegraph

Advertisements

British nuclear submarine ‘surfaces off Gibraltar’ as row with Spain heats up

Witnesses said  they saw the submarine surface on Saturday

  • Believe sub is  HMS Tireless but officials refuse to confirm sighting
  • Comes days  after Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster arrived

A British nuclear submarine has reportedly  been spotted off the Gibraltar coast.

Witnesses said they saw the vessel surface on  Saturday as tensions between Spain and Britain continue to rise over fishing  rights around the Mediterranean enclave.

The sighting comes days after Royal Navy  warship HMS Westminster arrived in Gibraltar.

Witnesses say a British nuclear submarine, believed to be HMS Tireless (pictured), surfaced off GibraltarWitnesses say a British nuclear submarine, believed to  be HMS Tireless (pictured), surfaced off Gibraltar

The Ministry of Defence refused to confirm or  deny today if a nuclear submarine is currently stationed at the enclave.

 A spokeswoman said if it was in Gibraltar  then it was for ‘routine business’.

The Sun quoted an ‘insider’ as saying: ‘There  is only one reason a submarine breaks the surface – and that is to be spotted.

Last time the Trafalgar-class sub docked by the Rock it provoked anger and protests from activists (pictured) Last time the Trafalgar-class sub docked by the Rock it  provoked anger and protests from activists (pictured)

‘These things do not show themselves unless  they want to be seen.’

The website shipspotting.com reported that  HMS Tireless – a Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine – was seen in Gibraltar in Z  Berth last month.

Local news in Gibraltar reported that HMS  Tireless sailed into the area last month for a ‘short stay as part of (the  submarine’s scheduled operational tasking’.

If confirmed, it will be the first time the  nuclear submarine has docked in the contested region since 2004.

The docking of HMS Tireless, which is due to  be decommissioned this year, sparked protests from Spanish activist nine years  ago – the same year as the 300th  anniversary of the capture of Gibraltar from Spain.

The submarine caused diplomatic tensions  between Britain and Spain once again in 2000 when it docked in Gibraltar for a  year after the submarine developed a serious leak in the nuclear reactor primary  cooling circuit.

Another Trafalgar-class submarine, HMS  Talent, stopped in Gibraltar this year and the enclave’s first minister Fabian  Picardo and his deputy Dr Joseph Garcia were given a tour.

Tensions between the two countries have  ramped up this year over fishing rights.

Gibraltar’s creation of an artificial reef  with concrete blocks has provoked fury from Spanish fisherman, which they say  blocks their access to certain waters.

Spanish police were criticised last week when  they unfurled a Spanish flag during an inspection of the reef.

Spanish police were criticised recently after they held up a Spanish flag Spanish police were criticised recently after they held  up a Spanish flag during an inspection of an artificial reef that has caused  anger among fishermen

Gibraltar accused the police of violating  ‘British sovereignty’ by attempting to exercise jurisdiction in its  territory.

Last week, a fleet of almost 40 boats sailed  into British waters to demand the reef be removed.

Spain has also increases border checks,  leading to long queues for workers and tourists entering Gibraltar.

The Gibraltar government has tried in recent  days to defuse tensions by proposing a change in local law to let the Spanish  resume fishing in parts of the sea near the Rock.

Source –   Daily Mail

£2m nuclear submarine crane nears completion at Kingswinford firm

A £2 million defence project to build a colossal crane for the decommissioning of nuclear submarines is nearing completion at a Black Country firm.

30675337
Managing director Robert Holland, right, and sales manager Richard Holland with the colossal crane in Kingswinford

Around 50 workers at Kingswinford’s TM Engineers have been working to create the 40ft high and 60-tonne structure, for the past two years.

Bosses from the company, in Oak Lane, today said the finishing touches were now being added to the crane.

It will be used to remove rods from the nuclear reactors of Trafalgar-class submarines at the end of their service life.

Work is due to be completed on the project within the next few weeks.

It will then be broken down into five separate pieces and transported from the firm’s headquarters during the next month.

The crane will eventually form part of a larger structure installed at the Devonport Royal Dockyard – where the submarines will be stripped down.

It takes around two years to fully strip a submarine and the crane has been designed to withstand natural disasters such as tsunami, hurricanes and earthquakes.

The structure is designed to be in operation for 30 years with designers at the Black Country firm having to anticipate what will be required of it during that period.

Around 8,000 hours of welding has gone into creating the structure.

Sales manager at the company Richard Holland said all of the staff at the firm deserved credit for the successful project.

“You can design something but it is the workers here who have made it a reality. They have worked tremendously hard over the past two years,” he said. “It has been a very difficult project to work on as technology and the demands on the structure change so quickly.

“This has been a highly prestigious contract for us. It has involved all of our staff at various points during the project.”

It is not the first major project to have been completed by the firm. It won a prestigious £750,000 deal to build parts for the famous Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The firm developed mechanised parts for the project which helped capture atoms as they are sent careering around the 16-mile underground structure.

The parts, called E-Cal End Plates, were 13ft wide, made from aluminium and sent in two sets to Geneva. They took six months to develop due to the complicated nature of the manufacturing process.

A carbon fibre ‘shroud’ and lead blocks were attached to holes on the plates to catch the atoms.

The firm which employs 55 staff was founded more than 60 years ago. It is one of only 10 firms worldwide to be awarded special gold plaques from Geneva for its work on the Hadron Collider. The firm became involved through Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in Oxfordshire.

Source – Express & Star

‘HMS Talent’ pays another visit to Gibraltar

HMS-Talent-July-4

The British nuclear submarine HMS Talent is pictured above as it sailed into the bay of Gibraltar yesterday escorted by a patrol boat from the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron.

This is the submarine’s second visit to the Rock so far this year.
It called here last May, the first British submarine to stop in Gibraltar in five years.
The Trafalgar-class ‘hunter killer’ submarine arrived yesterday afternoon and it is not known how long it will stay in port.
As is routine in such cases, the Ministry of Defence disclosed no information about the submarine’s visit.
A one-line statement contained the standard line that HMS Talent was visiting Gibraltar “…as part of scheduled operational tasking.”
The visit comes against continued tension in the Bay of Gibraltar over recent incursions by Guardia Civil and Spanish navy vessels.
HMS Talent is described by the Royal navy as a technically advanced, nuclear powered ‘hunter-killer’ submarine, the penultimate in a series of seven Trafalgar Class submarines.
Launched by Princess Anne in Barrow in Furness in 1988, the submarine has conducted operations all around the world.
The principal role of the ‘hunter-killer’ is to attack ships and other submarines.
In this capacity, vessels of this type could support and protect a convoy or taskforce.
HMS Talent can also be used in a surveillance role as it is fitted with cameras and thermal imaging periscopes.
HMS Talent is also fitted with Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, which gives it a land attack role.

Source – Gibraltar Chronicle

Troubled Trafalgar class nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, in new reactor coolant leak

HMS Tireless was the third of the Trafalgar class hunter-killer nuclear submarines. These are not nuclear armed but nuclear powered and conventionally armed.

Tireless was launched in 1985 and, at  28 years old, was due to be decommissioned this year. However, her service was extended for another four years due to the delay in the rollout of the new Astute class submarines.

Ten days ago, Tireless was taking part in a training exercise for new officers off the west coast, when a coolant leak developed within its sealed reactor unit. The Ministry of Defence has said that no risk was involved  to the public the environment or the crew.

Tireless was ordered back to the Faslane naval base on the Clyde where engineers inspected the leak; and then returned to her home base at Devonport.

She is said to face up to 10 months in dry dock while repair work is carried out.

Tireless is most famous for a series of troubling incidents.

She collided with an iceberg at 60 metres down on 13th May 2003 [it would have been the 13th]. This was the first return of the navy to under-ice operations since 1996. Neither her passive sonar nor other onboard sensors had given any warning of the proximity of the iceberg.  Tireless’s bow was forced down 9 degrees and she subsequently broke free of the iceberg at a depth of 78 metres. Some damage was done to her upper section.

She suffered an earlier leak  of her reactor coolant , in May 2000 in the Mediterranean. This saw her nuclear propulsion system shut down, with backup diesel power getting her into Gibraltar. She spent a year there under extensive repairs,  becoming the focus of serious diplomatic strain.

In March 2007, on deployment back in the Arctic, it was Tireless that had an internal explosion  in her forward section – later found to be caused by a defective or obsolete oxygen candle.This killed two of her crew – Leading Operator Mechanic Paul McCann; and Operator Maintainer (Weapons Submariner) 2 Anthony Huntrod.

Following the current incident, there is real concert that the cost of the failures experienced by  the new Astute hunter-killers – in forcing the extension of the lives of ageing Trafagar class submarines like Tireless – may be asking the impossible or the dangerous.

The problems in with commissioning of the Astute submarines are having a knock on effect on the nuclear safety of the older Tralfalgar hunter-killers that were due for decommissioned.

This latest reactor coolant leak is seen as potential evidence that this ship is actually reaching the end of her life. It may be that she has to be decommissioned and will not emerge from the extensive repair period now necessary.

Her preceding two siblings – class leader, HMS Trafalgar and HMS Turbulent have already been decommissioned, Tralfalgar in 2009 and Turbulent in JUly last year, 2012.

The current incident has reduced the hunter-killer fleet to a maximum of five instead of the recommended seven plus a spare needed to carry out vital duties, including protecting the UK’s Trident missile-carrying Vanguard submarines.

Of those five, Astute, Britain’s brand new £1.2billion attack submarine which – gloriously – ran aground in 2010 for the ultimate photo opportunity – just beside the Skye Bridge –  is still not fully operational. One other, possibly two, are in maintenance.

This latest incident comes just weeks after the Clyde-based Trident submarine,  HMS Vigilant ,was stranded in the US after its rudder broke, just after her £350million refit.

The leak will also fuel the heated political debate about nuclear submarines operating in Scottish waters.

Last night, local MSP, Michael Russell MSP for Argyll and Bute, called on the Ministry of Defence to clarify exactly what had happened. He said: “This is the latest in a long line of alarming incidents involving nuclear submarines off the coast of Scotland. ‘

Andy Smith of the UK National Defence Association, says: ‘The problems with HMS Tireless illustrate the folly of trying to have ‘defence on the cheap’ and failing to upgrade or replace equipment due to political short-sightedness and a defence policy dictated by the treasury rather than the military.’

Source – For Argyll

Plymouth to lose more than 600 Royal Navy jobs

MORE than 600 Navy jobs will be lost from Devonport when the base’s nuclear submarines move to Scotland.

The grim revelation is set to fuel calls for the next generation of warships to be based in Plymouth to “backfill” the personnel gap left by the subs’ departure.

  1. submarine

    The Ministry of Defence says about 630 military personnel are due to transfer to Faslane when the five Trafalgar-class hunter-killers relocate.

It was unable to say what impact the change would have on civilian staff, but it was not expected to “lead to any significant changes” in the number at Devonport.

The decision to make Faslane the dedicated home for the UK’s entire submarine fleet was taken under the last Labour Government and so has been known for some years.

But it is the first time the impact on manpower has been revealed.

Plymouth has already suffered from redundancies and the scrapping of warships as part of the biggest round of defence cuts since the end of the Cold War.

The latest news will lend added urgency to a campaign to bring the hi-tech Type 26 Global Combat Ship to Devonport.

Due to enter service after 2020, they will replace the Type 23 frigates, seven of which continue to be based in Plymouth after ministers lifted the threat of a move to Portsmouth last year.

Three of Devonport’s five Trafalgar class subs – Trenchant, Talent and Triumph, are to move to Scotland by 2017, where they will join the nuclear-armed Vanguard fleet and new Astute boats as they enter service. The other two, Tireless and Torbay, will be decommissioned.

That not only has implications for the dockyard’s workload and the knock-on effect for jobs, but also the economic benefit generated by naval personnel and their families.

Base-porting on the Clyde has become central to the high-profile debate on Scottish independence.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is demanding the submarine-based nuclear deterrent is removed in the event of a vote to go it alone in 2014. Continue reading