The US Navy has revealed that the nuclear submarine that met with an accident and was damaged in the contested waters of South China Sea last month had hit an underwater mountain and not a foreign vessel.
The nuclear-powered submarine USS Connecticut collided with an “unknown object” on 2 October and suffered severe damage, leaving more than 10 sailors injured. The US 7th Fleet, which operates in the western Pacific Ocean, began an investigation to find the cause.
“The investigation determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Commander Hayley Sims told USNI News, a think tank close to the Navy, on Monday.
The investigation, which was completed last week, has now been passed on to the 7th Fleet commander for review and to determine if there will be any additional accountability actions over the incident, Commander Sims said.
The 2 October collision was confirmed by the Navy only a week after the fact.
The damage to the forward section of the submarine ruined its ballast tanks. The Connecticut — one of three Sea Wolf-class attack nuclear boats that were developed for deep-water operations — is undergoing repairs at Guam, a US territory in the western Pacific.
The collision also became a point of contention between the US and China. Beijing, which already has objections to Washington’s presence in the South China Sea, objected to the “lack of transparency” about the accident and accused the US of a cover-up.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China had “grave concerns” and accused the US of being “irresponsible” and “cagey” by not providing details about the incident. He said the lack of details gave “every reason to question the truth and the intention of the US”.