US Navy FIRES USS officers after submarine crash in South China Sea

US Navy FIRES USS Connecticut Captain, XO and Chief of the Boat after $3.1bn nuclear-powered attack submarine collided with ‘uncharted seamount’ in South China Sea

  • The US Navy has fired the Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO) and Chief of the Boat (COB) for ‘loss of confidence’ after submarine crash 
  • On October 2 the USS Connecticut collided with an ‘uncharted seamount’ in the South China Sea during soaring tensions with China
  • A seamount is a mountain which rises from the ocean floor 
  • CO Cmdr Cameron Aljilani, XO Lt Cmdr Patrick Cashin and COB Cory Rodgers were relieved of their positions on Wednesday
  • A statement from the Navy said that the crash, which injured 11 crew members, could have been prevented with ‘sound judgement (and) decision-making’ 
  • But the Navy has determined that there was no foul play in the incident 
  • Navy remains on high alert in the South China Sea amid threats from Beijing 

The US Navy has fired a nuclear submarine’s Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and Chief of the Boat for ‘loss of confidence’ after their vessel collided with an ‘uncharted seamount’ in the South China Sea.

The $3.1 billion USS Connecticut’s CO Cmdr Cameron Aljilani, XO Lt Cmdr Patrick Cashin and COB Cory Rodgers were relieved of their positions on Wednesday.

A seamount is a mountain which rises from the ocean floor.  

A statement from the Navy said that the October 2 crash, which injured 11 crew members, could have been prevented with ‘sound judgement, prudent decision-making and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning’.

Three interim officers were ordered to fill in and the Seawolf-class submarine is reportedly in Guam ‘undergoing damage assessment’ overseen by the Naval Sea Systems Command. 

On the day the USS Connecticut struck the underwater mountain there were soaring tensions with China after 39 warplanes breached Taiwanese airspace and a record 56 aircraft flew into the zone two days later in a 24-hour period.

The US Navy has fired the Commanding Officer (CO) Cameron Aljilani (pictured), Executive Officer (XO) and Chief of the Boat (COB) for ‘loss of confidence’ after a nuclear-powered attack submarine collided with an ‘uncharted sea mount’ in the South China Sea

XO Lt Cmdr Patrick Cashin (pictured) and COB Cory Rodgers were also relieved of their positions on Wednesday and three interim officers were ordered to fill in and the submarine is reportedly in Guam ‘undergoing damage assessment’

But the 7th Fleet, which operates in the western Pacific, determined after an investigation that there had been no foul play in the incident, concluding that the Connecticut simply smashed into a mountain rising from the sea bed on October 2. 

‘The investigation determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,’ a spokesman said.

The Navy remained on high alert in the South China Sea where Beijing -valued for their strategic and historic significance – continues to make threats to Taiwan and lays claim to other smaller disputed islands. 

Taiwan’s president confirmed for the first time last week that American troops were stationed on the island – just days after President Joe Biden publicly confirmed he would defend the nation from China should it come under attack.   

The 7th Fleet, which operates in the western Pacific, said an investigation had concluded that the USS Connecticut (pictured in Puget Sound, Washington, in 2016) smashed into a geological formation and not another vessel on October 2

On the day the USS Connecticut struck the underwater mountain there were soaring tensions with China after 39 warplanes breached Taiwanese airspace. A record 56 aircraft flew into the zone two days later in a 24-hour period

Cdmr Cameron Aljilani pictured shaking hands with Commander of the US 7th Fleet Vice Adm Karl Thomas as he welcomes Thomas on a tour of the submarine at Fleet Activities Yokosuka on August 2

President Tsai Ing-wen explained how US soldiers were stationed on the self-governing island, explaining that Taiwan had a ‘wide range of cooperation with the US aiming at increasing our defense capability’.

The training mission, which consists of a special-operations unit and contingent of Marines is believed to have been in operation for at least a year.

For decades, the Pentagon maintained a large troop presence in Taiwan but the American Taiwan Defense Command was ended in 1979 as the United States began a formal diplomatic relationship with China. Washington continued to maintain unofficial ties with Taiwan.

Although there are said to be less than three dozen troops currently stationed on the island, the token gesture is significant and symbolic as it signals American presidential administrations will defend a democratic Taiwan and stand up to Chinese aggression. 

Last month’s submarine accident was confirmed by the Navy a week after it took place. At the time they only confirmed that the Connecticut had ‘struck an object while submerged.’  

Beijing today accused Washington of failing to provide timely and detailed information on the incident, complaining of a ‘lack of transparency and lack of responsibility from the US.’

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China urges the US to provide an explanation of the vessel’s ‘navigational intentions, the specific location of the accident, whether it was in the exclusive economic zone or territorial waters of any country, and whether it caused any nuclear leak or damage to the ocean environment.’

USS CONNECTICUT

The USS Connecticut is a Seawolf-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine.

It is the the fifth active United States Ship to be named for the U.S. state of Connecticut, going back to 1776. 

It was constructed by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, Connecticut, and launched on September 1, 1997. 

Class and type: Seawolf-class submarine

Displacement: 7,568 tons light, 9,137 tons full, 1,569 tons dead

Length: 353 ft

Beam: 40 ft

Draft: 36 ft

Propulsion: 1 S6W pressurized water reactor (PWR) 57,000 shp (43 MW)

1 secondary propulsion submerged motor

1 shaft

1 pump-jet propeller

Complement: 15 officers, 101 men

Armament: Eight 26-inch torpedo tubes, 40 torpedoes and missiles, or 100 mines

Washington should ‘stop sending warships and military aircraft to provoke trouble and make shows of force,’ Wang said, warning that ‘this type of accident will only become more frequent’ without any change in US actions.

The 7th Fleet said there would be further deliberation on ‘whether follow-on actions, including accountability, are appropriate.’

USNI News, published by the US Naval Institute, a thinktank close to the Navy, reported that there were some moderate and minor injuries in the accident.

It said the crash damaged the sub’s forward ballast tanks and forced it to sail on the surface for a week back to Guam for repairs.

The ship’s nuclear plant was not damaged, the publication said.  

The 353-foot vessel was commissioned in 1998 and sails with a crew of 116, including 15 officers. 

It can carry 40 torpedoes or missiles.

The South China Sea remains a central sphere of influence for America and its allies as China seeks to dominate its smaller neighbors and wrest control of the strategic islands and reefs which dot the region.

And last month, as tensions escalated over the flying of warplanes into Taiwan, it emerged that China had tested a new hypersonic nuclear-capable missile, taking world powers by surprise with a fearsome technology capable of striking virtually anywhere on the planet. 

Counterbalancing the threat posed by China is the new Aukus alliance forged by the US, UK and Australia last month. 

That new security pact has further heightened tensions in the South China Sea where many of the smaller countries, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, look to the US for military support.

Weapons race: A comparison of the most advanced (columns from left) missiles, aircraft carriers, tanks and aircraft possessed by China, the US and Russia

China’s President Xi Jinping has previously stated that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, will inevitably become subsumed as part of China. 

Taiwan’s government has made frequent, recent appeals to Washington and the West not to dismiss Beijing’s threats as pure bombast. 

As part of the West’s show of strength, a fleet of US, UK and Australian vessels have been charting the world, travelling to the Far East and back.

Led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, the fleet has since returned from the South China Sea and travelled to the Gulf via the Bay of Bengal.

The Gulf is the UK Carrier Strike Group’s final destination before it returns to Portsmouth on the south coast of England. 

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