The US Navy is still unsure what hit one of its most powerful attack submarines in the South China Sea as repair assessments continue in Guam, four sources familiar with the results of the preliminary investigation told USNI News this week.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the submarine object carrying the forward part of the USS . has damaged Connecticut (SSN-22) had not been definitively established as part of several investigations into the Oct. 2 incident, the sources said.
Early indications were: Connecticut hit a seafloor in the South China Sea, two defense officials familiar with the Navy’s investigation of the submarines told USNI News, but that has not been confirmed by investigators. Politics earlier this month it was first reported that the boat may have hit a submarine feature.
cmdr. Cindy Fields, a spokesman for Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet, told USNI News the command had nothing to add to the initial statement about what hit the sub. She said two investigations — a security inquiry commission convened by COMSUBPAC and a command inquiry overseen by the Japan-based US 7th Fleet — are currently investigating the incident.
“Connecticut on the afternoon of Oct. 2 hit an object while underwater while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” PACFLEET said on Oct. 7.
The impact on the forward section of the attack submarine damaged the submarine’s forward ballast tanks and forced the boat to make a week-long surface journey to Guam, two defense officials told USNI News this week.
The four sources confirmed the Navy’s public statement that the submarine’s reactor compartment was undamaged from the moment the boat hit the object.
Since returning to Guam, the boat is still being evaluated for scope of repairs by Naval Sea Systems Command, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard personnel and submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39), Fields told USNI News on Tuesday.
The teams first determine which repairs Connecticut must leave Guam safely and then make repairs, Fields said. The nearest dry dock for major submarine maintenance is in Hawaii. Located near the assault boat’s home port in Bremerton, Washington, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is the second closest dry dock.
As repairs and various investigations continue, Chinese officials have accused the US of hiding details of the incident from Beijing.
“The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed serious concern about the matter and has asked the US side for clarification,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.
“We have seen nothing but a brief and vague statement from the US military with a delay, and confirmation from a so-called informant that the incident did indeed take place in the South China Sea. Such irresponsible, reticent practice gives regional countries and the international community every reason to question the truth of the incident and the US intent.”
Connecticut is one of three Seawolf-class attack submarines. The boat left for a deployment to the western Pacific in May and has made at least two port calls to Japan.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby earlier this month rejected China’s accusation that the US covered up the incident.
“It’s a strange way to hide something when you put out a press release about it,” Kirby told reporters when asked about China’s accusation.