- The US Navy has completed its investigation into a mysterious submarine incident in the South China Sea.
- USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount, USNI News first reported.
- The investigation has been sent to the fleet commander, who will consider accountability actions.
The US Navy investigators have determined what a nuclear-powered attack submarine hit in the South China Sea last month, USNI News reported Monday, citing defense officials familiar with the investigation and a legislative official.
The Seawolf-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Connecticut collided with an unidentified object on October 2, the Navy revealed five days after the incident. Investigators have reportedly determined the submarine ran aground on an undersea mountain, a seamount, the location of which was uncharted.
The earlier Navy statement on the incident left a lot to the imagination, stating only that the the boat struck something while operating in international waters, there were no life-threatening injuries, the sub was in stable condition, and the nuclear propulsion systems were not damaged.
The sea service did not say where the incident occurred, though Navy officials speaking on the condition of anonymity provided that information to some reporters following the release of the statement.
As of last Wednesday, the US Navy still was not quite sure what the submarine collided with, though defense officials told USNI News that early indications suggested that Connecticut collided with a seamount, an undersea feature that rises from the ocean’s depth. It can also pose a risk to ships on the surface depending on how close its summit is to the surface.
China, often at odds with the US in the South China Sea, has capitalized on the limited information provided by the Navy about the incident, with Chinese officials accusing the US of a cover-up and calling it “cagey” and “irresponsible.”
The US military has denied that it is trying to cover up the incident. After a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman first made the allegations, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said: “It is an odd way of covering something up when you put a press release out about it.”
But Beijing, both the foreign ministry and the defense ministry, has continued to criticize the US for a “lack of transparency” while repeatedly calling the US “the biggest force for militarization of the South China Sea,” an accusation typically aimed at China.
The conclusion of the command investigation into the USS Connecticut incident takes some of the mystery out of things. The investigation, according to USNI News, has been passed up to the 7th Fleet commander, who will make decisions about potential accountability actions.
As the investigation into the incident has not yet been publicly released, information is still limited on how the submarine ran into an seamount and to what degree members of the crew and command are responsible.
The submarine, one of only three in the powerful Seawolf class, is in Guam, where it is undergoing repairs, likely initial work before more extensive repairs can be completed elsewhere.
There are concerns that if the Connecticut has to be taken back to a public shipyard for additional repairs, it could throw a wrench into a submarine maintenance backlog that has long been problematic.
Insider reached out to 7th Fleet for comment on the results of the investigation but did not immediately receive a response.