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US Navy reveals what submarine crashed into near China

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) file photo. (U.S. Navy/Thiep Van Nguyen II)
November 02, 2021

The unknown object that U.S. Navy submarine USS Connecticut (SSN-22) struck in the South China Sea on October 2 was an underwater mountain, according to a recently concluded investigation reported by USNI News on Monday.

On Monday, the U.S. 7th Fleet confirmed in a statement to USNI News that the service believes the accident was the result of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine striking a seamount, a term for an underwater mountain that rises from the ocean floor.

“The investigation determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Hayley Sims told USNI News in a Monday afternoon statement. “Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet will determine whether follow-on actions, including accountability, are appropriate.”

The submarine had incurred damage in the impact and 11 sailors reportedly suffered moderate to minor injuries. None of the injuries to the crew were life-threatening.

The October 2 collision is not the first time a U.S. submarine has struck an uncharted underwater mountain. In January 2005, the Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine USS San Francisco (SSN-711) crashed into an uncharted seamount about 360 nautical miles southeast of Guam. That crash resulted in the death of one sailor and injury to 98 of its 130-person crew, We Are The Mighty reported.

Following this latest incident with the USS Connecticut, China demanded the U.S. provide answers about the U.S. submarine’s operating location and what it was doing when it suffered its underwater collision.

Within hours of the Navy first revealing the submarine collision on October 7, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China is “gravely concerned” and called on the U.S. to reveal precisely where the accident took place.

“As the party involved, the US should clarify in specific details what happened, including the exact location of the incident, the US side’s navigation intention, the details of the incident, the object the submarine struck, whether the collision caused a nuclear leak or damaged local marine environment, et cetera,” Zhao said.

Thus far the Navy has said the USS Connecticut’s nuclear reactor and propulsion system were not damaged in the collision. “USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” the Navy said.

The Navy did note that the USS Connecticut suffered damage to the forward section of its ballast tanks.

The submarine is currently undergoing repairs in Guam and the Navy is still determining how to repair the submarine enough for it to safely leave Guam for more-extensive follow-up repairs.