L-plates? Nuclear sub crash in Gibraltar may have had trainee behind the wheel

Crew on board HMS Astute stand on the bow during the commissioning ceremony of the Royal Navy submarine at the Clyde Naval Base near Glasgow, Scotland © David Moir
Britain’s Royal Navy is currently investigating if a nuclear-powered submarine which hit a cargo ship near Gibraltar on Wednesday was under the control of a trainee officer.

The Astute-class hunter-killer had to make for port with visible damage after the collision with a surface vessel.

HMS Ambush was in the area as part of the Navy’s ‘Perisher’ submarine command course, which is used to select new commanders.

It has been reported that as many as six officers were on the course, which sometimes also has trainees from other countries.

These people generally already have a decade’s worth of submarine experience and are aspiring to command,” a navy source told the Telegraph Friday.

The source said the course is “renowned for its rigor, it’s a serious course.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that the collision was merely ‘glancing’, while the Spanish government, which lays claim to Gibraltar, has demanded a full explanation.

The MoD said at the time of the incident that “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.

"An immediate investigation is being conducted,” they said.

The 7,400-ton, 97-meter-long nuclear submarine is equipped with torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles. HMS Ambush is the first Astute-class and cost more than £1.1 billion ($1.46 billion) to build.