US Nuclear Submarine Collides With Unknown Object in South China Sea

(Photo Credit: United States Department of Defense DVIDS image network)

Six days ago, a US submarine collided with an unknown object while submerged in the South China Sea. The event, which took place on Saturday, injured several sailors onboard the submarine and startled US officials, who are currently in the dark about what the object was. Thankfully, the submarine’s operational status was not compromised despite the collision.

The incident has remained under wraps until Thursday to maintain the security of US assets. In a statement, the US Pacific Fleet said the submarine is in “safe and stable condition” and none of the injuries were life-threatening. Around a dozen sailors have been injured.

The vessel involved in the collision was the USS Connecticut, a 9,000-ton nuclear submarine. According to the US Pacific Fleet, Connecticut was performing routine operations when the collision happened.

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) file photo. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Thiep Van Nguyen II)
USS Connecticut (SSN 22) file photo. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Thiep Van Nguyen II)

A statement released by the United States Pacific Fleet said “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.”

From the statements provided by the Navy, the submarine was known to have been operating in the South China Sea when the collision occurred, but the exact location has not been disclosed. The submarine’s mission objectives are also unknown, although Navy officials said the submarine was heading towards Guam.

There are currently no clear explanations for the object that impacted Connecticut, but the Navy said it was not another submarine. Some have suggested that the object may have been a sunken vessel, container or simply a piece of debris.

However, some have claimed that for the number of injuries caused by the event, the submarine must have hit something big that was traveling extremely fast.

This type of incident is not unheard of, but happens extremely rarely. The most recent similar event happened in 2005, when the USS San Francisco slammed into an underwater mountain while traveling at maximum speed. The collision killed one sailor and injured nearly 100 more. San Francisco received extensive damage to her bow section, but fortunately, her nuclear propulsion system was unaffected. She was later repaired and returned to duty, being retired in 2016.

USS Connecticut (SSN-22)

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. (Photo Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
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. (Photo Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

USS Connecticut is a Seawolf-class fast attack nuclear submarine, the fifth US ship to be named after the state of Connecticut. She was ordered in the early 1990s and launched in 1998. The 107-meter long submarine is powered by a S6W pressurized water nuclear reactor which provides 45,000 shaft horsepower. Connecticut is operated by a crew of 101 men and 15 officers.

The Seawolf class of submarines was conceived during the Cold War, with 29 planned to be built. However, the once the Cold War ended this amount of submarines was no longer necessary. Only three Seawolf class submarines would be completed; the USS Seawolf, the USS Connecticut and the USS Jimmy Carter.