Navy Fires Commander Of Nuclear Sub That Hit Underwater Mountain In South China Sea

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Nov 05, 2021 - 10:40 PM

China is still demanding answers regarding an Oct.2 incident wherein a US nuclear attack submarine was damaged in the South China Sea after an "underwater collision". Beijing hasn't let go of the issue, citing the potential for dangerous nuclear leakage, and Washington's "lack of transparency and responsibility" over the incident which injured 11 sailors aboard. 

But more details have been revealed this week after on Wednesday the Navy announced the firing of the captain and to other leaders of the USS Connecticut. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet cited that the commanders have been relieved "due to loss of confidence".

USS Connecticut (SSN 22), US Navy image

"Connecticut commanding officer Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin and Chief of the Boat Cory Rodgers were removed from their positions at the direction of U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas," the Navy identified.

The action was taken "due to loss of confidence. Thomas determined sound judgement, prudent decision-making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident," according to the statement.

The submarine had struck an "uncharted seamount" - or essentially an underwater mountain - in a precise location that has not been made public (another key piece of information the Chinese are seeking).

There was enough damage, also given it was a rare and major accident, to immediately cause the submarine to cease its deployment and head to Guam for urgent repairs under the Naval Sea Systems Command. The submarine will next head to Bremerton, Washington where it can undergo final and more extensive repairs. 

According to the naval monitoring site USNI News

The Navy has not released damage information for Connecticut but sources have confirmed to USNI News that the forward section of the submarine was struck, damaging the ballast tanks. The damage to the tanks forced the submarine to transit for a week on the surface to Guam.

Meanwhile China's Foreign Ministry has again this week blasted the US military for not releasing crucial details of the accident. An official statement by its spokesman said Washington "has yet to give clear answers to questions like the intention of the operation, the exact location of the incident, whether it lies in the exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of any country, and whether the collision led to a nuclear leak or polluted the marine environment, all causing great concern and doubt."

"We once again urge the U.S. to give a detailed description of the incident and fully address regional countries’ concern and doubt," spokesman Wang Wenbin added in the remarks. There is apparently enough for both the US and China to be worried about, given that - as journalist and geopolitical commentator Dave DeCamp has pointed out - "The US recently deployed a spy plane designed to detect radioactive debris to the South China Sea, a signal that Washington the accident was severe enough for the US to think it released nuclear materials."

Recently a report in The South China Morning Post underscored the heightened American submarine presence in disputed waters near China, counting a known deployed US nuclear sub presence to the South China Sea no less than 11 times this year.