US to ban civilians from military vehicles

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to ban civilians from the controls of any military ship, aircraft or vehicle.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to ban civilians from the controls of any military ship, aircraft or vehicle.

The move responds to questions about the role of civilians aboard the US submarine that collided last week with a Japanese fishing research vessel.

The order may be issued by the end of the week, Rumsfeld's spokesman, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, said.

"All the services know this is coming," he added.

The USS Greeneville, a nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with cruise missiles, had 16 civilians aboard when it collided with the fishing vessel Ehime Maru on February 9 off the coast of Honolulu.

The Japanese boat, on a cruise to teach commercial fishing to high school students, sank and nine people were lost at sea. Two civilians were at control positions aboard the Greeneville at the time of the accident, although the Navy says they did not cause it.

It has been reported that the submarine's captain, Commander Scott Waddle, told Navy investigators he was aware of sonar soundings detecting a ship before the sub made a rapid ascent and hit the fishing vessel.

But Cmdr Waddle maintained that when he looked for a ship through a periscope, he didn't see anything and was not warned of any danger by a sailor whose job it was to plot positions of nearby ships, the newspaper said.

Quoting an unidentified person close to the investigation, the Post said Cmdr Waddle told investigators he checked the compass bearings of the nearby ship indicated by sonar readings.

He then increased the periscope's magnification and ordered the submarine to ascend 2ft closer to the surface so he could peer over the waves but still didn't see anything

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