USS Thresher, among the most modern nuclear submarines in the world at the time, was lost on the morning of April 10th, 1963 off the New England coast, fifty-two years ago tomorrow. No matter how many times I read about it, it makes the hair on my neck stand up. This piece from Navy Times in 2013 is a haunting read.
The Thresher collapse event signal was detected by multiple SOSUS arrays as an extremely high-amplitude event at ranges as great as 1,300 nautical miles. The characteristics of that acoustic event confirmed that the Thresher’s pressure hull collapsed or “imploded” at 09:18:24 at a depth of about 2,400 feet (i.e., more than 400 feet below her predicted collapse depth).
The Thresher’s pressure hull and all sea-connected piping systems had survived well beyond their design specifications. The analysis of the SOSUS detection of the collapse event — the bubble-pulse frequency — also indicated that the pressure hull and all internal compartments were destroyed in about one-tenth of a second, significantly less than the minimum time required for perception of the event by the men on board.
Measurements made during the instrumented sinking of the discarded diesel-electric submarine Sterlet in 1969 are consistent with the conclusion that the water-ram produced by the initial breaching of the Thresher’s pressure hull at 2,400 feet entered the pressure hull with a velocity of about 2,600 mph. That force would have ripped asunder the pressure hull longitudinally and vertically, as verified by photographs of the Thresher wreckage.
The collapse of the bulkheads in the 280-foot SSN occurred in less than a tenth of a second. One hundred twenty-nine souls died in service to our country. Vigilance and preparedness to fight and win our nation’s wars has a price well beyond dollars.