US Submarine Crash Caused by Out of Date Maps

16 Jan ’05

The NYT is reporting that the recent crash of the US submarine USS San Francisco into an undersea mountain was caused by maps that did not have information updated from more recent satellite imagery of the crash site.  Money quote:

The submarine had crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts. One sailor was killed, and about 60 others were injured. Now, Defense Department officials say they have found a satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface there.

But the older navigation charts provided to the Navy were never updated to show the obstruction, they acknowledge, in part because the agency that creates them has never had the resources to use the satellite data systematically.

I would have thought that the mapping technology used in the US Navy, particularly in submarines, would be extreme state of the art, and would have at least indicated such things as mapping certainty ….

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