A nuclear-powered submarine of the United States Navy hit an unidentified “object” while submerged in international waters in the South China Sea, news agencies reported on Friday morning citing officials who are familiar with the development. According to the reports, the US navy officials issued a statement on Thursday informing that there were “no life-threatening injuries” and that the submarine remains “fully operational”; however, the statement missed out on providing any clarity as to the nature of the object that the vessel encountered.
The Seawolf-class nuclear-powered submarine, named USS Connecticut, ran into the said ‘object’ five days ago, but the incident was not announced before Thursday in order to maintain operational security. The statement issued by the US Pacific Fleet was quite brief and did not mention what the object actually was, although it clarified that Connecticut remains in a “safe and stable condition”. The submarine’s nuclear propulsion plant also remains unaffected, the statement noted.
“The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed,” the US Navy said, without elaborating much on the location of the encounter. It added that that the incident will be investigated.
Two officials of the US Navy, however, speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, discussed details not yet announced publicly. They confirmed that the incident occurred in the South China Sea while the USS Connecticut was conducting routine operations. According to the officials, it is not yet clear what exactly the object was that the submarine encountered underwater, but it was definitely not another submarine. One of the officials said that it could have been a sunken vessel, a container, or any other sort of uncharted object.
The impact of the encounter was noticeable to everyone on board the submarine, the officials said. Two sailors sustained moderate injuries, while at least nine others had minor injuries like scrapes and bruises. Following the encounter, the submarine headed toward port at Guam for further inspection, they added.
The development comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing are high in the South China Sea, where the US Navy has sought to challenge China’s disputed territorial claims on small islands, reefs, and outcrops. According to CNN, the USS Connecticut submarine was operating in these international waters as the US with its allies have been carrying out a major multinational show of force in the region, known as Carrier Strike Group 21.