30-Year Old French Sub Sinks US Carrier Group
(Source: compiled by Defense-Aerospace.com; published April 7, 2015)
PARIS --- The French Ministry of Defence has deleted from its website a news story relating how one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines, Saphir penetrated a US Navy carrier group and fictitiously “sank” the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt as well as several of its surface escorts (Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers).

The deletion was not acknowledged, and simply implemented by replacing the original story by an error page.

The original French navy report on the exercise was posted on March 4, 2015 (above) and deleted shortly afterwards; the link now points to an error page (below). Screen copies made on April 7.

The deletion was noted at the time by several blogs, but has only now come to our attention.

On March 6, the Russian television website RT also reported that “French delete evidence US carrier was 'sunk' by sub in drill” It reported that “A major vulnerability that allowed French submarine to “sink” aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and most of its escort during drills was apparently revealed by the French Navy and Defense Ministry in blogposts that were quickly wiped out.

“Both the French Defense Ministry and the Navy released and then quickly deleted a news post entitled “Le SNA Saphir en entraînement avec l’US Navy au large de la Floride” (“The SNA Sapphire in training with the US Navy off the coast of Florida”) that praised the 34-year-old French nuclear submarine’s success in “sinking” the American aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt along with best part of its escort.”

The original story, however, was copied by a French defense blog, and is still available here:

This is the relevant paragraph, in French, followed by our translation:

Dans une seconde phase, le Saphir, était intégré aux forces ennemies et avait pour mission de localiser le porte-avions Theodore Roosevelt ainsi que les autres bâtiments de la force navale amie et de se tenir prêt à l’attaque. La situation politique se dégradant de jour en jour, le Saphir s’est glissé discrètement au cœur de l’écran formé par les frégates américaines protégeant le porte-avions, tout en évitant la contre-détection des moyens aériens omniprésents. Au matin du dernier jour, l’ordre de feu était enfin donné, permettant au Saphir de couler fictivement le Theodore Roosevelt et la majeure partie de son escorte.


During the second phase, the Saphir was integrated with “enemy” forces, and its mission as to find the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt as well as the other ships of its task force, and to remain on standby to attack. As the political situation [of the exercise scenario] was worsening from day to day, Saphir covertly entered the screen of American frigates protecting the aircraft carrier, and avoided detection by the pervasive aircraft assets. On the morning of the final day, the firing order finally arrived, allowing Saphir to fictitiously sink the Theodore Roosevelt and the greater part of its escort ships.

It is obviously not to the credit of the US Navy that a 30-year old submarine was able to penetrate one of its carrier groups and to sink both carrier and most of its escort vessels, which not only failed to detect its approach, but also failed to attack it once it made its presence known by sinking the carrier.

In fact, given the claims made by US Navy chiefs about their ships’ effectiveness, and the huge sums invested in carrier groups on the strength of these claims, they deserve to be publicly embarrassed, and to be forced to explain this latest failure.

Because, in fact, this is not the first time a foreign submarine “sinks” a US Navy carrier during an exercise. In 2004, the US Navy leased a Swedish Navy submarine, the Gotland, for one year of dissimilar training, and got more than t bargained for. In fact, as reported by the Foxtrot Alpha blog,

“The Gotland virtually "sank" many US nuclear fast attack subs, destroyers, frigates, cruisers and even made it into the 'red zone' beyond the last ring of anti-submarine defenses within a carrier strike group. Although it was rumored she got many simulated shots off on various US super-carriers, one large-scale training exercise in particular with the then brand new USS Ronald Reagan ended with the little sub making multiple attack runs on the super-carrier, before slithering away without ever being detected.”

Although the French MoD diplomatically tried to limit the embarrassment to the US Navy, the bigger question remains, and is likely to further fuel the legitimate debate in the United States as to the cost and the true effectiveness of US Navy carriers.

These are already threatened by the emergence of Chinese “carrier-killer” missiles as well as more powerful anti-ship missiles, such as the Indian-Russian supersonic BrahMos missile.


prev next

Press releases See all

Breaking News from AFP See all

Official reports See all