HMS Ambush submarine collides with merchant ship

HMS Ambush, the UK's most advanced attack submarine, has collided with a merchant ship in the Mediterranean - the latest in a number of incidents involving Britain's submarine fleet.

The vessel was involved in a ‘glancing collision’ with the ship off the coast of the peninsula of Gibraltar.

"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," Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement. "There are no safety concerns," it added.

The submarine, HMS Ambush, was not carrying nuclear weapons as it is not part of Britain's ballistic missile submarine fleet.

The collision occurred whilst the submarine was submerged and conducting a training exercise. An immediate investigation is now being conducted.

The Astute class submarines, which are based at the Clyde naval base in Scotland, are Britain's largest and most powerful attack submarines.

Opponents in some of Britain's political parties and in the wider public have cited safety concerns as one of the reasons for not backing Trident's renewal.

This latest incident follows a 2010 mishap near the Isle of Skye, just off the Scottish coast, in which HMS Astute, the first and lead vessel of a planned seven nuclear-powered Astute Class submarines, ran aground and was marooned for several hours.

The incident, which was caught on camera and happened during sea trials, saw it become stuck near the Skye bridge on October 22 2010. It then sustained further damage after colliding with a tug, the Anglian Prince, which tried to free it.

Its commander at the time, Andy Coles, was later removed from being in charge of the vessel.

The following year, an officer was killed on board the same submarine by a member of the crew.

Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36, from Wigan, was killed by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan while Astute was docked in Southampton.

Molyneux was awarded a posthumous George Medal, second only to the George Cross, for attempting to tackle drunken guard Donovan as he ran amok with an assault rifle during a civic visit by Southampton's mayor.

He admitted murdering Molyneux and was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in September 2011.

The Astute class vessels are the most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy. They weigh around 7,400 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 1,000 double-decker buses, and are 100m long.

Armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the billion-pound, Barrow-built vessels can accurately strike targets up to 1,931km from the coast.

Advanced stealth technology means they can remain undetected despite being 50 per cent larger than the Trafalgar Class submarines they will replace.

Their nuclear reactors will not need refuelling in their entire 25-year life and they make their own air and water, enabling them to circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface.

Three boats - Astute, Ambush and Artful - have entered service. The other Astute class submarines - including Audacious, Anson and Agamemnon - are in various stages of design or build. The seventh vessel's name has yet to be confirmed.

BAE Systems was awarded a £1.3bn contract by the government to deliver the fifth Astute Class submarine in November. 

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