Al Qaeda's Planned Attack on Pearl Harbor Sub Fleet: Likely Aftermath

Word coming off the wire says that the terrorist group had dreams/plans to hijack several commercial airliners and slam them into the docked U.S. submarine fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Apparently, more than a dozen subs are stationed there, though no word on how many are docked at one time.

Are the safeguards on these subs such that this attack scenario would not trigger a domino effect with the subs’ nukes? IOW, set them all off and level much of Oahu?

IMHO answer but it sounds like a poorly planned attack. Submarines are pretty hard targets. Not to say an airliner wouldn’t severely damage them but the dyanmics are completely different than the WTC towers.

Also nukes don’t just “go off” like chemical explosives. There is a documented history of nuclear weapons withstanding some sevre punishment and none detonated. They have survived airplane crashes and being accidentally droped from planes. I don’t think there would be a chain reaction if one was to go off as the surrounding weapons would be vaporized and just add to the fallout load.

As Padeye nukes don’t go off in the manner that chemical explosives do. You could pretty much bang on one with a sledgehammer and not worry about setting the nuke off.

However, nukes DO have fairly powerful conventional explosives as part of the inner workings. These explosives are fairly powerful. Add to that the fuel contained in what…24?..rockets. The resulting explosions wouldn’t go nuclear but they might very well become an effective dirty bomb by blowing apart the warheads and spreading their contents across Pearl Harbor.

Still, hitting the World Trade center is a far cry from hitting subs with a plane moving 400-500 MPH. If you look at the videos of the WTC attacks you’ll see one of the planes was banking to achieve a hit suggesting last minute course corrections to hit a VERY large target sticking up out of the ground. Forgetting any possible military intervention to shoot down the plane beforehand I think just placing the plane on a target that barely sticks out of the water would be difficult. If the plane missed by only 50 feet (over or under shoot) I think the sub would probably survive.

What “nukes” are you referring to? Nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons?

If you mean the former, realize that nuclear reactors cannot be made to explode as do nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are phenomenally difficult to make work. In fact, nuclear weapons are so difficult to make them work properly, that there is not an issue with a “domino effect.” A nuclear weapon exploding near another nuclear weapon simply destroys the second weapon, a term called “fratricide.”

At worst, in your scenario above, you might spread radioactive contamination all over the place. However, I’m not convinced an airliner would breach the reactor core to cause such problems, even with a direct hit. (I don’t doubt the hull would be breached with such a hit, though). There’s a lot of metal between the reactor core and the outer hull.

If you meant nuclear weapons, note that none of our SSBN ballistic missile subs are stationed in Pearl Harbor. While the SSN attack subs stationed at Pearl can carry tactical nuclear weapons, this is not routinely done. (Note that as a matter of policy, the presence of nuclear weapons aboard any vessel can neither be confirmed nor denied, however.)

I can’t imagine a hijacked airliner would be allowed to get anywhere near a naval base, esp one with large nuke collections.
I think the terrorists have really used up the “hijack an airliner and crash it into something” MO. Not only would the military never allow a hijacked plane anywhere near a base, the passengers wouldn’t either. I think worst case would be some airliners either shot down by the military, or brought down by the passengers a’la flight 93.

If they did somehow manage to actually pull it off, and actually hit a docked sub (no small feat, as whack-a-mole said), the worst case would be dirty bomb like explosion as others have said

jk1245, Honolulu International Airport is very close to Pearl Harbor. You can see on this map that it’s only two miles away. So in theory, they would just have to seize control on take-off or landing, which gives a lot less time for anyone to respond.

Holy crap SmackFu, I (obviously) wasn’t aware of that!
I recant my response or at least the part about the military responding in time.

The airport might be close but to reiterate hitting a sub with a cmmercal jet would be tough. Not impossible certainly but harder than most might expect. Just look at old movies of Kamikazees attacking ships in WWII. You often see those that actually make it to a ship miss the ship…more often than not they miss their target. Granted they are being shot at and the pilot may be injured but they are also flying much more nimble aircraft and seeking significantly larger targets than a sub (e.g. aircraft carriers). I know someone might point out that a US boomer is on par in size with a WWII cruiser but most of the sub is underwater…even when surfaced. Wrestling a 767 into one is not likely an easy job…especially for likely (hopefully) minimally trained pilots.

Just to twist your tail is it safe to assume…even to the point of actually being confirmed…that nuclear weapons are onboard a ballistic missile submarine? :wink:

It would also be pretty hard to take over an airplane that quickly. There would be problems just involved for any hijacker to even try to stand up while a plane was taking off.

I don’t know what sort of capacity flights to Honolulu average, but I’ve never been on one that was not pretty crowded.

I hope to god this doesnt happen… i can see it now… “Pearl Harbour… 2!” OH wont someone THINK of the children?

i forgot to put in a line that informed you i was talking about the movie pearl harbour 2… not like “Gulf War 2”…
I’ll shut up now…

I agree that hitting a sub would be very difficult. Maybe if you set up a nice, gentle approach like you were coming in for a landing. That’s when it would be easiest to control.

But at those speeds, you’d have far less energy, and I think it would be tough to hit and breach the reactor core.

Coming in at 500 mph like they were going when they hit the WTC would be very, very difficult. Especially for a terrorist with minimal training. Maybe Chuck Yeager could do it if you gave him a simulator to practice in for a week or so.

One thing that has not been mentioned in this thread - well eluded to by Sam - is that even if a terrorist hijacked a plane, and got passed the passengers who have WTC burned in their collective memories, and took the plane over quick enough so as to suprise a navy base with subs that have nukes on them - how the hell would a terrorist know which part of the sub to hit? They would have no idea where the reactor is, silo’s are or anything else for that matter is… I’m not too worried about this situation… I’m more worried a terrorist with a suitcase of plutonium is going to unlease a dirty bomb infront of the Capital building…