British submarines could face the same fate as Argentina’s lost ARA ‘San Juan’. In his damning 2015 expose on failures aboard Trident, Royal Navy whistleblower William McNeilly warned UK subs share the same faults as the missing vessel.
According to Argentinian media, the final message from the missing submarine was received on November 15. The distress signal said that seawater had entered the ventilation system, causing a battery on the diesel-electric submarine to short-circuit and spark a fire. Forty-four crew members were on board with only an estimated 10 days’ worth of oxygen. The submarine has not been recovered.
In March 2015, naval engineer McNeilly leaked a dossier to WikiLeaks detailing severe safety and security failures aboard the UK’s Trident nuclear-armed submarines and at their base at Faslane in Scotland. He was dishonorably discharged and narrowly avoided criminal prosecution.
In the report – under the heading 'disaster waiting to happen' – McNeilly detailed the structural and mechanical failings of the UK submarines; failings that could lead to the same outcome as the lost ARA ‘San Juan’. “I literally warned about water in DC (Direct Current) compartments causing fires and being likely to sink a submarine, a couple of years before submarine ARA ‘San Juan’ made its final call,” he told RT.
McNeilly’s report details a conversation he had with a SWS Navigation Supervisor, recounting a story spookily similar to what is believed to have happened on the missing Argentine submarine. “I got him to tell me about his experiences onboard. He [said he] has experienced four floods and fires onboard,” McNeilly said in his report. “He told me the worst was a flood in the DC equipment space. The whole back section was submerged in electrified water, from the 10 [kilowatt] motor generators.”
According to McNeilly, if naval officers had followed official protocol they would have wound up at the bottom of the ocean, lost forever. “[The SWS Navigation Supervisor] said they were lucky they didn’t follow the normal emergency operating procedure for that incident,” he said. “Due to where the flood was coming from, if they had followed the normal procedure the submarine would’ve been lost.”
The UK’s Trident subs could easily become death traps for British crewmen if McNeilly’s report is to be believed. The whistleblower detailed the severe structural failings of the Trident vessels, warning that above-acceptable levels of condensation could have deadly consequences.
“There was water dripping from the roof onto all sorts of electrics. They told me that there’s a problem with the system and the condensation levels are 15 percent higher than they should be at,” said McNeilly. “I then told them ‘there’s a pump in AMS1 that sprays water on an electrical distribution box.’ One of them said ‘that’s a bit of a design flaw.’ They laughed and changed the subject.”
When the report was initially published, the Royal Navy tried to discredit the former weapons engineer, dismissing the report as utter nonsense. Over the years, claims made in McNeilly’s exposé have been repeatedly proven correct. The UK government has not acted on his warnings.
“The world has seen my warnings about submarine hazards,” McNeilly told RT. “They refused to listen. Now they see the consequences of being ignorant.”