Mystery Surrounds What Happened To U.S. Nuclear Submarine As China Accuses U.S. Of Cover-Up
Photograph of submariners standing on top of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut in the water at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, Washington, May 7, 2018.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Mystery continues to surround what happened to the USS Connecticut earlier this month when the submarine reportedly struck an object underwater in the South China Sea that caused significant damage to the vessel, forcing it to surface and immediately go to Guam for initial repair assessments.

“As of Tuesday afternoon, the undersea object that damaged the forward section of USS Connecticut (SSN-22) had not been definitively determined as part of several investigations into the Oct. 2 incident,” USNI News reported. “Early indications were Connecticut hit a seamount in the South China Sea, two defense officials familiar with the Navy’s examination of the submarines told USNI News, but that has not been confirmed by investigators.”

The submarine’s forward ballast tanks were damaged during the incident, although the reactor compartment of the submarine was undamaged from the incident.

“Since returning to Guam, the boat is still under evaluation for the scope of repairs by Naval Sea Systems Command, personnel from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39), Fields told USNI News on Tuesday,” the report added. “The teams will first determine what repairs Connecticut needs to leave Guam safely and then follow-on repairs, Fields said. The closest dry dock for major submarine maintenance is in Hawaii. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, which is near the attack boat’s homeport in Bremerton, Wash., is the second closest dry dock.”

The U.S. Navy released the initial statement back on October 7th about the incident:

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) struck an object while submerged on the afternoon of Oct. 2, while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region. The safety of the crew remains the Navy’s top priority. There are no life threatening injuries.

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 extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed. The U.S. Navy has not requested assistance. The incident will be investigated.

China has used the incident to try to accuse the U.S., without evidence, of engaging in some sort of a cover-up.

“The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed grave concerns over the matter and asked the U.S. side to make clarifications,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “We have seen nothing but a brief and vague statement issued by the U.S. military with procrastination, and a confirmation by a so-called informant that the incident did happen in the South China Sea. Such an irresponsible, cagey practice gives regional countries and the international community every reason to question the truth of the incident and the intention of the U.S.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has previously dismissed accusations from China that the Biden administration was engaged in a cover-up, noting that “it’s an odd way of covering something up when you put out a press release about it.”

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