Submerged on patrol in the South China Sea, the Seawolf-class nuclear-powered anti-submarine hits an unknown underwater object. The incident occurred on October 2nd. According to the 7th US Fleet, the "USS Connecticut" was in international waters. Eleven crew members suffered injuries such as bruises and lacerations. Two of the cases were classified as moderate, the others as easy.
After the collision, the submarine was able to continue its journey. According to the US Navy, the submarine is stable and fully operational. Weapon and sensor systems as well as the propulsion system remained unaffected. The unit now goes to Guam to assess the damage. On your own keel, that is, without support.
Navigating a submerged submarine in the South China Sea is a challenge. Less because of the water depths (the mean depth there is a little more than 1,000 meters), but rather because of the controversial claims to the area. China recently introduced a reporting regime for nuclear-powered units for their passage in the South China Sea.
There is currently speculation as to whether a Chinese underwater drone could have caused the collision. Beijing has been investing in the development of autonomous underwater vehicles since 1986. Today, China has several underwater drone systems. The largest system, "Haishen 6000", 7.6 meters long and 3.5 tons in weight, should be able to dive up to 6,000 meters deep. In 2019, the PLA-N presented an underwater drone, the HSU-001, about seven meters long at the military parade for the 70th birthday of the People's Republic.
It is believed that the Chinese underwater drones are a continuation of the Great Wall of China. Beijing maintains a network of stationary surface and underwater sensors for monitoring the sea area - independent of the airborne and space-based reconnaissance.
Naturally, hunting submarines do not use active sensors during their patrols. They are, so to speak, 'blind' to objects floating in the water that do not cause emissions (sonar, engine or other noises). In this respect, other objects, from containers to fishing equipment, torn navigation marks or objects blown or driven from the land may also have caused the impact. In mid-September, the east China region was hit by Typhoon Chanthu.
Hans Uwe Mergener