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A Mysterious Accident With One of the US Navy’s Most Sophisticated Subs Hints at a Long History of Submarine Spying

by Insider Nov 5, 2021
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Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean, November 17, 2009. (Photo by MCS1 John M. Hageman/U.S. Navy)
Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean, November 17, 2009. (Photo by MCS1 John M. Hageman/U.S. Navy)

In October, a U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarine collided with what is believed to have been an uncharted seamount while operating in the South China Sea.

The USS Connecticut suffered some damage, and several sailors were wounded during the collision. The Navy said on November 4 that it had relieved the sub’s senior leaders over the incident.

The Navy is investigating the incident and has not — and likely will not — disclose the nature of the USS Connecticut’s mission. But it is safe to assume that the sub was involved in strategic reconnaissance or even intelligence gathering.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Navy’s Silent Service has conducted such risky operations.

 

The Silent Service

USS Connecticut submarine
USS Connecticut (U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy fields three major submarine types — ballistic missile, guided missile, and fast-attack submarines — totaling 68 nuclear-powered vessels of all types in service.

Ballistic-missile subs are the U.S. nuclear triad’s maritime component. The 14 Ohio-class subs can each pack 24 Trident nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

Four Ohio-class subs were converted to guided-missile subs in the 2000s and now pack up 154 Tomahawk missiles, for an impressive non-nuclear show of force. In addition to launching precision strikes, these four subs can also carry a dry-dock shelter from which Navy SEALs can launch mini-submarines and conduct operations.

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