On the bus prior to departing for the sub, the character Lt. Dougherty barks at a sailor for failing to address him as sir and orders him to stand at attention. While this is not inappropriate, ordering him to drop and do push ups certainly is. Superior officers are not permitted to arbitrarily punish subordinates with physical exercise as a basic training drill instructor would. This is considered abusive treatment and the subordinate is not obligated to obey. Further, the officer can be brought up on charges.
When the Captain conducts his first interview of his new executive officer (XO), the Chief of the Boat is present. This is highly irregular and unlikely to occur because the Chief of the Boat is an enlisted man. As a subordinate to the XO, the Chief of the Boat's presence during this interview is improper and violates protocol. However, given Capt. Ramsey's eccentric nature, particularly where protocol is concerned, it seems within character.
Several characters, especially Captain Ramsey, refer to the submarine as a "ship." Traditionally, a submarine is referred to as a "boat," with the term "ship" being reserved for vessels that travel on the surface of the water.
As Captain Ramsey is addressing the crew before the patrol, he refers to the Chief of the Boat as "Mr. COB". In real life the COB would not be referred to as "Mr." That title is for Commissioned or Warrant officers only.
When Captain Ramsey reads the EAM to Hunter, he says "Rebel controlled missiles being fueled. Launch codes compromised". However, the EAM clearly states "Russian missiles being fueled. Ready to launch in one hour".
The much-disputed EAM changes wording. The initial message fragment begins with "Nuclear Missile Launch..." before being cut off in the attack by the Akula soviet sub. The recovered message as shown in the climax of the movie begins with "Terminate Launch All Missiles..." They are ostensibly the same message, however had the initial message fragment begun with "Terminate" Capt. Ramsey probably wouldn't have been so gung-ho about firing his missiles, and there wouldn't be a movie.
When Lt Hunter and his team are gearing up to assault the con. Hunter asks if they they are ready to go, the Chief says, "Just about sir" and he is wearing a hat. When the next shot of Lt Hunter is shown, the Chief is not wearing a hat.
During the Alabama's dive, she is seen with her periscope deployed on the surface, with decks awash. There is a cut to an underwater shot from above, that shows her sail with all periscopes retracted, and their doors closed. In the next shot, the boat is fully submerged, with its scope deployed and visible cutting through the water.
Several times in the movie it is stated that the Russian separatists would have to fuel the ICBMs they gained control of before being able to launch them. Prior to the development of solid propellant, ICBMs had to be stored dry because the liquid fuel corroded the missiles' fuel tanks. The time period in which the movie is set is around the year 1995, at which time, all American and Russian ICBMs used solid propellant. Thus, the missiles were stored with fuel already in their tanks, making pre-flight fueling unnecessary. Therefore, if the Russian separatists gained control of the launch codes, the missiles could have been launched immediately.
On 26 October, when Hunter briefs the officers after receipt of the first EAM placing forces at Defcon 3, he states the last time forces were at that level of readiness was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, "32 1/2 years ago". The Cuban Missile Crisis was ALSO in October, so no matter what year in which this film was set, there would be no half year involved. And, anyway, it was last ordered in 1973, during the Arab-Israeli War.
When Ramsey yells at Hunter in front of the crew, he could have been detained right there under UCMJ article 133 which is Conduct Unbecoming. When he strikes Hunter at the end, he would have been immediately detained under UCMJ article 128 for assault.
If the Alabama were sent into as tense a situation as depicted in the movie she would have been escorted by a fast attack sub. Hence, the confrontation with the Akula would have been handled by an accompanying Los Angeles/Seawolf/Virginia class boat while the Alabama would escape to launch her missiles.
In a mutiny/stand-off scene Capt. Frank Ramsey tells Lt. Commander Ron Hunter about Lipizzaner horses; how those are "all white" and "from Portugal". Hunter corrects Ramsey with that the horses are from Spain and that those "are born black". Ramsey insists that they are from Portugal. At the very end scene, Ramsey volunteers to Hunter that Hunter is right; the horses are from Spain. However - both are wrong: The horses originate from town of Lipica in Slovenia (hence the name), and are nowadays bred in Slovenia, Austria, Italy and other countries. The Spain confusion is probably due to that the horses are closely associated with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, established in 1572, one of the riding schools where Lipizzans are trained. A Lippizaner is born black or bay, but turn gray when reaching maturity (not completely white).
Ohio-class SSBNs have no compartment called bilge bay. Also, there are no strobing yellow lights, nor are the missile decks made of see through grated decking, and there are no "crawl spaces" that would allow free clandestine movement around the boat.
The sonar is not displayed in the "radar" manner that is depicted in the movie. Actual sonar uses what is a called a "waterfall" display, so called because it shows the different sound frequencies on a vertical display that moves from the top down. One of these displays is shown very briefly at the first moment of contact with the Akula.
The XO is informed that the fire in the galley could not be extinguished because "the switch was too hot". The galley is equipped with an APC (aqueous potassium carbonate) system for galley fires. It can be activated by pulling a ring next to the equipment, which is probably what they were talking about. However, there is also a remote activation switch outside the compartment and also the system is equipped with a fuse that melts at 360 degrees and automatically initiates the system. Since it was "too hot", the fire probably would have been put out long before the XO showed up. Either way, no one would have to go anywhere near the fire to extinguish it.
When the CO is meeting the XO he notes that he has made patrols on fast attacks and boomers. Fast attack submarines do not make "patrols." They are called deployments or missions. Fast attack submarine only make patrols in wartime situations.
In the scene where the XO attempts to motivate Vossler to fix the radios, he reads Vossler's name tape and calls him "Mr Vossler". A Naval Officer would not call an enlisted man "Mr" as that is a prefix used for Officers. He would have called him "Petty Officer Vossler" or just "Vossler". The COB makes the same error when Rivetti rescues the mutineers by saying "Mr Rivetti... I'm impressed."
After the fire in the galley, the CO and XO are walking towards the CO's stateroom and enlisted men stop in the passageway and salute the CO. Salutes are not rendered in the U.S. Navy unless you are outdoors or under arms. They are never rendered underway on board a Sub (although the last set of salutes rendered after the crisis is over are artistic enough to be believable).
Multiple uniform mistakes. No rank indicators on anyone below "Chief", No Command Chief Petty Officer Badge on the COB, and if James Gandolfini was the Supply Officer he should have worn the Supply Corps insignia on his left collar where he was wearing LT bars and worn Supply Officer Dolphins.
Not only is Capt. Ramsey wrong about the color of the Lipizzans, he also doesn't know anything about their training. He says "Their training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards." Full training of the Lipizzan stallions one sees in the shows takes six years to complete. The classical dressage methods that are used for their training are based on rewarding the horse instead of punishing it.
The XO, Hunter, gives the order to fire torpedo tubes 2 and 4; the next shot shows two forward starboard doors open; the subsequent shot shows torpedoes firing from opposite sides of the boat. On all U.S. Navy submarines, torpedo tubes 2 and 4 are located on the same side.
Red caps would only be worn during a drill. For instance, if the boat was going through a reactor scram drill (essentially turned off), the captain would wear one if he was back in the engineering spaces. Wearing the cap is saying "I'm not really here." Ramsey is seen wearing a red cap after he has been arrested, one time when he is certainly not participating in a drill.
In the opening news flash taken aboard the "Foche", the reporter states the Russian government responded to the Chechenian uprising with heavy bombing. The accompanying footage shows a European PA-200 Tornado discarding cluster bomblets. The Tornado has never been delivered to the Russian Air Force.
A Submarine Collision alarm switch is red and the alarm makes the sound of a long undulating siren. The movie's collision alarm switch was yellow General alarm) and made some weird "gong" noise. It would have also been sounded again when the boat began flooding.
The metal grating used for deck material in the missile room set is far too noisy. All US Navy submarines use solid steel deck plates covered with rubber tile through out the ship, to reduce noise. Noise can be transmitted through the hull and into the water, so every effort is made to reduce noise throughout the ship, to make the boat harder for enemy ships and submarines to detect.
Throughout the film, Denzel Washington's character is seen wearing what is presumed to be his ring from Annapolis on his right hand. Graduates of a service academy nearly always wear their ring on the left hand. It is seen as a badge of high honor afforded only to the few who attain that status.
The captain has a dog. Having a pet on a submarine would not conform to any Navy regulation. There may have been pets on subs in WWII, but nowadays that would be (1) cruel to the animal and (2) unsanitary to the crew. However, this matter is addressed early in the film, when Dougherty mentions to Hunter that Ramsey "takes that dog everywhere" and that "the Navy looks the other way because he's Ramsey," with Zimmer adding, "The Navy looks the other way because he's one of the few skippers left who's actually seen some combat."
Originally, US Navy submarines were named for fish and other sea creatures and US Navy battleships were named after states (like the WWII USS Alabama.) However, the naming convention for US naval vessels has changed. US Navy submarines are now named for both cities (fast attack boats) and states (ballistic missile boats.)
US Navy attack submarines in the 688 (Los Angeles) class are named after cities. US Navy Ohio Class Trident Submarines, as well as Virginia Class attack submarines, are named after states. The USS Alabama is an Ohio Class Trident submarine.
Ramsey strikes Hunter on the left side of his face when Hunter refuses to give him the missile key after being asked a second time, leaving him with a cut on his cheek. At the subsequent hearing at Pearl Harbor, the cut has disappeared. But taken that it was another several days before the USS Alabama got back to the US, given the cut on Hunter's cheek plenty of time to heal.
Several times throughout the film, the importance of launching their missiles before the Russian missiles have been fueled is stressed. But in reality, they would have had to launch the missiles well in advance of that deadline in order to strike their targets before the Russian missiles could be launched, otherwise the missiles would simply pass each other in the air.
During the opening news report aboard the French carrier Foch, the reporter states that "these French planes are being readied...", but the very next image shows three U.S. F-14 Tomcats flying in a V-formation.
In several shots on the bridge of the Alabama, the various coiled cables are not hanging straight down. The camera was tilted to increase the Alabama's apparent angle of dive beyond the actual angle of the set.
As Captain Ramsey reviews Hunter's record after being detained, the form has a box labeled "Negro" checked. The form is quite out of date as it's highly unlikely the Navy would have used such terms in the nineties, especially for one's service record.
Missile control is located just aft of and one platform below the Sub Control room, Underneath the navigation center. During the scene in which Hunter disrupts the missile firing by removing the firing key in the nick of time then rushes to control, there is a shot showing Ramsey heading aft on the lower platform in the Missile Compartment, Hunter is standing on the upper platform looking down as Ramsey and his supporters head aft to Missile control. In reality, Ramsey has already passed missile control, as the Missile compartment is aft of both the control room and missile control.