London. A new British nuclear-powered submarine ran aground off the coast of northwest Scotland on Friday during an exchange of crew members.
Military officials played down the significance of the embarrassing accident involving the navy’s biggest and newest submarine. “This is not a nuclear incident,” a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
“There are no injuries to personnel and the submarine is watertight.”
A navy spokesman described the accident as “relatively minor.”
The ministry identified the boat as an Astute-class submarine, adding that it was not armed with nuclear warheads.
The submarine was snagged on rocks off the Isle of Skye during a routine boat transfer, the navy spokesman said.
“At some point she touched the rudder on the bottom and they weren’t able to get her off immediately,” a spokesman said.
He said tug boats were in place and would try to pull the sub free later as the tide rose.
“ There are no nuclear issues, no environmental impact, no injuries to people — potential damage to the rudder, that’s about it,” the spokesman said.
The HMS Astute is the first of a new class of nuclear-powered submarines. It was commissioned into the navy in August and was undergoing sea trials before becoming operational.
The design, development and manufacture of the first three Astute submarines cost 3.9 billion pounds ($6.1 billion).
According to the Royal Navy, it is the largest and most advanced sub the navy operates and will progressively replace the Swiftsure and Trafalgar classes.
Witness Ross McKerlich said: “She is now high and dry and we can see just the tips of her propeller. It looks as if it has developed a slight list. There was a helicopter hovering over the top and there are still just the two naval vessels from the local base.”
It is not the first time a British nuclear submarine has run aground off northwest Scotland.
In 2002 HMS Trafalgar got into trouble off the Isle of Skye during a military exercise and two crew were slightly injured.
The surrounding coastline is used as a navy training ground.
As part of a major defence review unveiled this week, the government confirmed it would go ahead with an order for seven new Astute-class submarines, built by BAE Systems.