• April 21, 2015


The jury is still out on this week’s submarine incident but we think it’s more than likely the Brits are in the frame and they have got form!

Speculation without any basis in fact at all is that a Russian submarine may have been responsible for the snagging of a trawler from Ardglass.

The simplistic view is that a NATO submarine would surface on entangling itself in the nets of a Motor Fishing Vessel. However the facts do not bear this out. We have highlighted in previous news posts the fate of the crew of the MFV Sheralga left to drown after being towed under by HMS Porpoise in 1982 (fortunately they were rescued).

More interesting was the fate of the Summer Morn (another N. Irish vessel) was dragged backwards for almost three hours in 1987 with the submarine stopping periodically and then surging forward trying to break free from the net. The rather stubborn (some might say foolish skipper) refused to cut his gear and eventually (by which time TV crews in chartered helicopters were overhead) the US submarine surfaced and the gear was freed.

Nuclear submarines are very large and very fast an attack submarine is over 360 ft long and 33 ft wide. A ballistic missile submarine can be 560 ft (length of two football pitches and 45 ft wide. They can travel at 25 knots submerged and the newer attack submarines in excess of 30 knots.

Collision danger can be enhanced because all nuclear submarines have trailed array systems for communications or sonar. The two vessels submarine and MFV could be over a mile and a half from each other and still be hooked.

So who was it? Well leaving aside the added complication of the ongoing NATO exercise the area to the west of the Isle of Man is a submarine exercise area.

For many years the Celtic League had some ‘pricey’ charts purchased from the Naval Hydrographers Office and these showed sub exercise areas all round the UK.

Area 81 (or to give its accurate designation Peel X5403) runs down the west coast of Mann from the North Channel to about 12 miles south of the Chicken Rock.

Area 80 (or to give its accurate designation Peel X5402) runs down the east coast of Ireland from the North Channel to Carlingford Lough.

In addition British nuclear submarines use natural the deep water trench down the east coast of Ireland (from the Beaufort Dyke to the Celtic Sea where it broadens out). The reason for this is the Irish Sea which is comparatively confined is noisy. Shipping movements, fishing gas field’s natural seismic noise bouncing of the coast lines is the perfect environment for a submariner who wants to loose himself from any potential shadowing predator from the opposition.

The jury’s still out but it’s more likely to be the Brits in the frame!

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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