U.S. Navy investigators have concluded that a submarine that sustained significant damage in the South China Sea ran into a previously uncharted seamount while operating in international waters.
The Navy said back at the start of October that 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 USS Connecticut sustained damage to its forward ballast tanks. No damage was reported to its nuclear reactor.
In a statement on Monday, the U.S. 7th Fleet said:
The command investigation for USS Connecticut (SSN 22) has been submitted to Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet for review and endorsement. The investigation determined that Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region. Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet will determine whether follow-on actions — including accountability — are appropriate.
The USS Connecticut immediately was forced to return to Guam for evaluation of the damage sustained during the accident and to determine what immediate repairs needed to happen before the submarine made a sea voyage to a larger repair yard where it could be fully repaired.
Jay Stefany, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told the House Armed Services Committee readiness subcommittee last week: “If we ended up doing [the Connecticut work] in one of the public shipyards, that would certainly cause perturbations in all the other work in the shipyards.”
During the same hearing, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) reportedly brought up how there was a lack of necessary facilities west of Hawaii to repair the submarine.
“Right now, it’s in Guam, that’s public record, there is no dry dock in Guam, hopefully, a sub tender can do the work, but that remains to be seen,” he said. “It just shows how … the world gets a vote and things change and unexpected incidents create more demand for repairs. … The attack subs have always been the poor cousin in the public shipyards in terms of getting priority, but we know particularly a Seawolf-class submarine is extremely valuable in terms of the mission in that part of the world.”
Communist 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.”