U.S. Navy Subs Take Safety "Stand-Down" After Undersea Collision

USS Connecticut (USN file image)

Published Nov 21, 2021 7:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy's submarine community has ordered a "stand-down" to go over navigational standards and review lessons-learned from the USS Connecticut incident. 

On October 2, the nuclear-powered Seawolf-class attack sub USS Connecticut sustained a collision with a seamount at an undisclosed position in the South China Sea. At least 11 crewmembers sustained minor cuts, scrapes and bruises in the incident, and Connecticut had to transit on the surface all the way to Guam for repairs. The nuclear propulsion plant was not damaged or affected by the impact, according to a 7th Fleet spokesman. 

In early November, the Navy relieved Connecticut's leadership team, including CO Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, XO Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin and the sub's top enlisted officer, Chief of the Boat Cory Rodgers. In a statement, U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas cited "loss of confidence." 

The service has not given the precise details of the casualty, but it has made clear that it was caused by human error.  

"Sound judgement, prudent decision-making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident," Vice Adm. Thomas said. 

The fleet-wide navigation stand down will not involve a halt of all sub operations, but crews will take time to go over existing procedures for route planning and safe operations, a spokesperson told Navy Times. They will also go over the lessons-learned from the USS Connecticut casualty. 

American subs have struck seamounts before: in 2005, the USS San Francisco struck a submerged feature at full speed, resulting in severe damage to her bow. 98 crewmembers were injured, including one individual who later died of his wounds.