A US nuclear-powered attack submarine struck an object while submerged in international waters in the South China Sea last week, the US Navy said late on Thursday, adding that no life-threatening injuries were reported.
“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement, adding that the extent of the damage from the incident on Sunday is being assessed.
A US Naval Institute (USNI) News report said that 11 sailors sustained minor to moderate injuries when the submarine hit an unknown underwater object in the South China Sea, citing an unnamed defense official.
Photo: AFP / US Navy/ Lt. Mack Jamieson
The incident occurred at about the same time as a large training exercise by US allies, with three aircraft carriers sailing in the nearby East Philippine Sea. The exercises were among several gestures toward Taiwan by the administration of US President Joe Biden and its allies in the past few weeks.
The Connecticut’s collision comes just weeks after Australia, the UK and the US announced the AUKUS security arrangement. The pact also created a rift with France, which saw a US$66 billion deal to provide Australia conventional submarines voided in favor of a deal for US-made nuclear-powered vessels.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the deal as a “game changer” for Australian security in the face of China’s military assertiveness, saying that it would boost stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
The last known incidence of a US submarine striking an underwater object was in 2005, when the USS San Francisco struck an underwater mountain in a collision that killed one sailor aboard, USNI News said.
The US Navy’s surface fleet has had several accidents in the busy Western Pacific over the past few years, including back-to-back collisions involving two guided-missile destroyers in 2017. Those incidents prompted the dismissal of the US Seventh Fleet’s commander and extensive investigations into naval training, policies and equipment.
The USS Connecticut is one of three Seawolf-class submarines, which the navy describes as “exceptionally quiet, fast, well-armed and equipped with advanced sensors.”
The vessels have eight torpedo tubes and can hold as many as 50 weapons in the torpedo room.
The Seawolf-class was a product of the Cold War, conceived to maintain the US’ acoustic advantage over Soviet submarines and hunt them down, the Naval Technology Web site said.
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