The Enterprise Incident is the name for an event which occurred in 1969
, in the Pacific Ocean
. It is also the name of an episode of Star Trek
(the original series), which broadcasted the previous year. It is not known whether the two names are related in any way.
The USS Enterprise, nuclear powered aircraft carrier CVN-65, and her escort fleet left their San Francisco base for a war cruise to Vietnam (the Vietnam War was going on at the time). At the time the Enterprise was departing, US Intelligence recieved word that the Soviet Union had dispatched a November Class attack submarine to shadow the battle group. The Enterprise battlegroup was given ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) helicopter cover, and was ordered to try and outrun the November, in order to determine the November class's maximum speed.
The November (NATO naming of Soviet subs was based on the NATO Phonetic Alphabet) was one of the Soviet Union's very first nuclear submarines, and thus, was expected to have capabilities similar to that of the United States' own USS Nautilus (about twenty knots). Much to the surprise of the Americans, the November kept pace with the Enterprise battlegroup, all the way up to thirty knots. At that point, the US Navy command ordered the November to be chased off.
The Enterprise Incident, as it has come to be called, caused US Naval Intelligence to completely re-assess the capabilities of all Soviet submarines. The November was a first generation Soviet sub. It immediately raised the question of 'how do the MODERN Soviet subs perform?'. It turns out that the reason the November had such a speed advantage over the Nautilus and other Skate Class submarines was because of the utter lack of shielding around the nuclear reactor. This did drastically decrease the November's necessary mass, but it also exposed the crew to massive doses of gamma radiation. Fortuantely, subsequent Soviet/Russian submarines were much (much much) safer for the crew.
This startling revelation about Soviet submarine speeds gave Admiral Hyman Rickover an opportunity to advance his proposed class of high speed attack submarines, the Los Angeles Class, which today is one of the mainstays of the United States' Navy's submarine fleet.