France’s navy has launched a damage limitation exercise after admitting to losing an ultra-sophisticated sonar exploration vehicle. The accident happened last month aboard the frigate De Grasse when it was carrying out tests in the Gulf of Gascogne. The captain reportedly decided against the advice of his lieutenants not to drop the anti-submarine sonar system as the weather was taking a turn for the worse.
It proved to be a costly mistake as France only has two of the highly sought after probes worth some 50-million euros. But French Defence Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, says it is too early to lay blame. An investigation will determine whether there was a human or technical error. Whatever the cause, it is another embarrassment for the navy, coming soon after India refused to dismantle an asbestos-lined French warship, the Clemenceau.