A French Nuclear Attack Submarine ‘Sunk’ a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

    Kyle Mizokami


    How did this happen? 

    How did such a tiny submarine kill a ship almost fifty times larger than itself? First of all, we don’t know the rules of engagement of the exercise. Were the Roosevelt’s escorts using all of their anti-submarine warfare sensors? Was there any prohibition or curb on their use, or were any of them declared inoperative for the purposes of the exercise? Second, it’s important to remember that “sunk” is in quotation marks for a reason. The French F17 torpedo has a 551 pound HBX-3 high explosive warhead. It can also only fire a salvo of four torpedoes at a time, due to having only four torpedo tubes. A 551 pound torpedo warhead would probably not sink a Ticonderoga or Burke-class escort, and though it would undoubtedly damage, it would definitely not sink a Nimitz-class supercarrier. Also, given a screen of four escort ships and Roosevelt’s onboard anti-submarine warfare helicopters, a single salvo of four torpedoes was all Saphir was going to get before it was forced to withdraw.

    In March 2015, one of the largest nuclear-powered warships in the world was “sunk” by one of the smallest.

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    The Saphir, a French nuclear attack submarine, reportedly penetrated the defenses of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and scored simulated torpedo hits on her. The incident, originally reported by the French Navy, was later suppressed.

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