U.S. Concludes Investigation Into Submarine Collision In South China Sea
The U.S. Navy has concluded its investigation into what damaged one of its submarines in the South China Sea after the U.S. military sent spy planes over the waters which observers say were likely surveying for nuclear fallout from the collision.
U.S. Navy investigators said that the submarine had sustained a significant amount of damage when it ran into a seamount that was uncharted until this point, while navigating through international waters in the South China Sea.
The USS Connecticut had damage to its forward ballast tanks, but the nuclear reactor was reported to have sustained no damage.
The U.S. 7th Fleet put out a statement saying, "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 returned to Guam after the collision for damage assessment and then sent to a different, larger repair yard where it could be fully repaired as facilities west of Hawaii lacked the facilities needed for repairing the submarine.
U.S. Representative Joe Courtney stated, "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.
"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" he continued.
Following the collision, the U.S. military sent out the WC-135 Constant Phoenix, a spy plane that detects radioactive debris, along with four other reconnaissance aircraft to the South China Sea to survey the area weeks after the collision took place.
The Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix is nicknamed the 'nuke sniffer' and its primary function is to collect samples of the atmosphere for the detection and identification of radioactivity from the explosion of nuclear devices.
The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative think tank in Beijing said that the WC-135 is not commonly seen in the South China Sea, with the last occurrence back in January of 2020.
A satellite image showing the submarine after the collision revealed that part of the submarine's nose had been removed which could indicate that it had been in a head-on collision.
Song Zhongping, who is a Hong Kong military commentator said that he believes the mission was probably to determine whether or not there had been nuclear leakage.
Zhongping stated, "And, if this was the real purpose, that indicates the collision was severe to a degree that the US is worried and dispatched a plane to gather more information".
"Maybe the US is worried that China has conducted some underwater nuclear tests, and Washington flew a plane here to confirm" Zhongping added, considering a second possibility.