U.S. aircraft carrier and part of its escort “sunk” by French submarine during drills off Florida

If you thought aircraft carriers were invincible you were wrong.

On Mar. 4, the French Ministry of Defense released some interesting details, about the activity conducted by one of its nuclear-powered attack submarine (SNA) in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

According to French MoD website (that is no longer online, even if you can still find a cached version of the article titled “Le SNA Saphir en entraînement avec l’US Navy au large de la Floride”), the Saphir submarine has recently taken part in a major exercise with the U.S. Navy off Florida.

The aim of the exercise was joint training with U.S. Carrier Strike Group 12 made by the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, several Ticonderoga cruisers or Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and a Los Angeles-class submarine, ahead of their operational deployment.

The scenario of the drills saw some imaginary states assaulting American economic and territorial interests; threats faced by a naval force led by USS Theodore Roosevelt.

During the first phase of the exercise, the Saphir was integrated into the friendly force to support anti-submarine warfare (ASW) by cooperating with U.S. P-3C Orion P-8A Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft): its role was to share all the underwater contacts with the other ASW assets.

In the second phase of the exercise, the Saphir was integrated with the enemy forces and its mission was to locate the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying warships and prepare to attack the strike group.

While the fictious political situation deteriorated, the Saphir quietly slipped in the heart of the multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier’s defensive screen, while avoiding detection by ASW assets.

On the morning of the last day, the order to attack was finally given, allowing the Saphir to pretend-sinking the USS Theodore Roosevelt and most of its escort.

Although we don’t really know many more details about the attack and its outcome, the scripted exercise its RoE (Rules of Engagement), the simulated sinking of a U.S. supercarrier proves the flattop’s underwater defenses are not impenetrable.

This is the reason why modern subs often train with aircraft carriers: they pose a significant threat to powerful Carrier Strike Groups.

Obviously, this was not the first time a submarine scored a simulated carrier kill with torpedo attacks.

For instance, in 2007 HMCS Corner Brook, a Canadian diesel-electric submarine “sunk” UK’s Illustrious during an exercise in the Atlantic.

Image credit: U.S. Navy


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • Very short range. Sub is killed instantly since there is no way for it to prevent detection after launching Шквал. Шквал also has a range of about 6 miles at best.

    • The speed of the projectile means nothing, Not to mention the louder it is (which the Shkval practically screams upon launch), the easier it is to locate. ATT is a hard kill. You can’t counter it with speed. MAYBE if you made a silent torpedo, but good luck with that.

      The US EW capabilities are head and shoulders above any adversary. It simply isn’t a concern to them.

  1. Also some german uboats succesfully “sunk” us carriers. the german U-24 (type 206A submarine) “sunk” the USS Enterprise, here’s a photo: http://www.abendblatt.de/politik/ausland/article107314674/Das-Zielfoto-das-einen-US-Admiral-wuetend-machte.html

    Of course the US admiral of the CVBG was pissed, really pissed. The type 206A has a nonmagnetic hull so MAD will not detect it. The successor, type 212 and 212A, have AIP, air independent propulsion, so they do not “snorkel” like conventional SSK’s. Rumor mill says, these new boat blew US CVBG’s out of the water in exercises several times. there was a exercise in the caribbean where US navy officers were on the bridge of U-31 (type 212) and it went in circles around a virginia class US navy sub without them heating ANYTHING. the US navy officers hat sweat pouring down their cheeks. it was a real shock to them. uboats are the best anti-shipping units, aip is even better then nuclear propulsion, reason is reactor noise. the only drawback is endurance of aip between 4 and 6 weeks. of course the 212 and 212A do a lot of “spy work” and “special forces” work.

    btw several us navy people said unofficially that the cvbg would not last 3 days in a real war against a real enemy… thats why they are used only against third rate enemies :)

    • Our reactors, which are “noisy” according to you, are actually quieter than the natural processes of the surrounding sea. But nice try seeming informed!

    • LOL i did have a good laugh. No, genius, not just only one drawback. Actually the greatest drawback of diesel sub is speed. It cant catch up with a nuke ships, even with top speed. And of course no dumb captain will do full speed coz it would be loud. And the carriers are used against third rate enemies because, well, the US hasnt been at war with any 1st war countries since WW2. Now, go back to your COD kid and stop pretending you know anything about this subject.

  2. No surprise, the main objective of carrier battle groups is to intimidate Middle East and African camel breeders and support military coups in the third world countries.

  3. Heres the real scenario. The Squadrons are at home. The Ships Company has got the
    Carrier out do brodys in the ocean. Playing dodge the Sub and Fire Drills.

  4. I heard that before in the South Pacific a few years ago when on exercises with Latin American countries, a German made operated by the Peruvian Navy “sunk” a US nuclear carrier.
    Hey if a Diesel powered submarine can sunk a U.S. carrier what can we expect from the Russians?

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