A nuclear-powered submarine collided with an unknown “object” while it was submerged in the South China Sea, U.S. military officials confirmed.
- The submarine’s nuclear propulsion system was not damaged and is operating normally
- It is not clear what the sub collided with, but officials say it could have been a submerged vessel.
- An investigation into the incident will be launched
The Seawolf-class rapid attack submarine USS Connecticut hit the “object” on Oct. 2, and while about a dozen sailors were injured, none of the damage was life-threatening, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
Officials said the submarine’s nuclear power plant was not affected and remained fully operational.
“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition,” the statement said.
“The extent of damage to the rest of the submarine is assessed.”
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident took place in international waters of the South China Sea.
They said it was not yet clear which object the submarine had hit, but that it was not another submarine.
An official said it could have been a submerged vessel, a submerged container or another unknown object.
Partial safety in focus
Most of the injured sailors received only bruises and injuries, while two sustained “moderate” injuries.
Officials said the submarine was now heading towards Guam under its own power for further inspections.
It was unclear what hit the submarine, officials said, but an investigation will investigate the incident.
The accident comes just weeks after Australia, the US and the UK announced the AUKUS safety partnership.
One of the pact’s first initiatives is to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia’s fleet.
In 2009, two British and French nuclear weapons were damaged after a clash in the Atlantic, while in 2019 14 Russian naval officers were killed in a fire on a nuclear-powered submersible near the Barents Sea.
Indo-Pacific tensions are rising
The incident happened while tensions were rising in the region following the recent military escalation between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwan’s foreign minister warned of a looming war this week after China sent dozens of fighter jets into Taiwan’s defense zone earlier this month.
The United States called on China to halt its “provocative” military activities, with Beijing and Washington agreeing to hold a virtual summit before the end of the year.
Competing territorial claims in the South China Sea have long been a source of tension in the Indo-Pacific.
ABC / wires