Navy Submarine Collision Leaves Sailors Injured

by Matthew Memrick

Two U.S. Navy sailors suffered moderate injuries while nine others had scrapes and bruises after a submarine collided with an unknown object last weekend.

Multiple reports came out Thursday about the South China Sea incident.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet Command said that a fast-attack sub named USS Connecticut struck an unidentified object on the afternoon of Oct. 2. The statement went on to say there were no life-threatening injuries, and the submarine was “in a safe and stable condition.”

The main parts of the sub were not damaged, and a full damage assessment was underway. 

Associated Press and USNI News reported that the sub’s collision was in the South China Sea. The ship was reportedly conducting routine operations as it traveled to a Guam port. While investigators ruled out a collision with another submarine, the object was not determined.

Additionally, security concerns kept the the incident details from being reported right away.

Sub Slowly Hit Object?

The Associated Press report spoke with two Navy officials who reported on the number of staff affected by the collision. All sailors got treatment on the submarine.

One official pinned the collision on a sunken vessel, a sunken container, or another unidentified object in the report. According to Business Insider, a former Navy defense expert and submarine officer suggested the submarine was operating along the seafloor on a surveillance mission. That could have included seafloor mapping. 

Brian Clark told the website that the South China Sea’s shallow waters make for a challenging operating environment. On the other hand, the Pacific Ocean has cast depths to it.

Clark surmised that the submarine was going slow in its seafloor surveillance. 

“The things you might do near the seafloor are hidden, if you are just trying to surveil Chinese submarine operations, or try to put something on the seafloor or pick something up, which might be a sensor,” Clark told Business Insider.

Notably, another misfortunate incident affected the ship earlier this month. Reports of a bedbug infestation plagued the submarine for months, but a naval spokesman denied that any bedbugs were on the submarine before February of this year.

Clark also guessed the incident happened near Hainan Island. The Chinese island has an unknown number of subs in the area. He said the submarine may have been “close to the bottom because it was trying to hide, and it ran into something while it was doing that.”

Issues With Seafloor Cruising

Business Insider reported that random debris could often get in the way of submarines.

Plus, there’s not much room in the South China Sea for ships. Hurried ships may lose a shipping container every now and then. It’s a crucial waterway for trade, and lots of boats go through the area. In 2020, a U.S. ship and a Chinese ship collided.

Clark warned submarine operators needed to be alert in going along the seafloor. Further, good maps and a bathometer to measure the distance are pivotal in gauging depth there.