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U.S. Navy Relieves Commanding Officer of Damaged Seawolf-Class Sub

uss seawolf
USS Connecticut at Bremerton, Washington, May 2021 (USN)

Published Nov 5, 2021 3:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has relieved the leadership team of the submarine USS Connecticut, which sustained damage in a collision with an uncharted seamount in the South China Sea last month. 

In a statement, the U.S. Navy said that U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas has determined that "sound judgement, prudent decision-making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident.” 

Citing "loss of confidence," Vice Adm. Thomas has relieved CO Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, XO Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin and the sub's top enlisted officer, Chief of the Boat Cory Rodgers. Their replacements have already been named. 

A 7th Fleet investigation determined that Connecticut "grounded on an uncharted seamount" while she was operating in the Indo-Pacific (specifically, the South China Sea). The impact reportedly damaged her forward ballast tanks, forcing her to surface for a long transit to Guam for emergency repairs, according to USNI. 

After temporary patching-up at Guam, USS Connecticut will transit back to Bremerton for permanent repairs at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. 

Military submarines typically operate without active sonar while under way, relying on survey data to navigate safely without giving away their position. That survey data is not always complete enough to reveal underwater obstructions, especially as the seabed is not an entirely static surface. 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. 

USS Connecticut is a Seawolf-class nuclear powered attack submarine, a class of three hulls that were built and commissioned in the 1990s. Despite their age, the Seawolfs are some of the most advanced submarines ever delivered, and they are reportedly much quieter than the Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class boats that make up the majority of the Navy's attack sub fleet.