The U.S. Navy’s Seawolf-class submarine, USS Connecticut (SSN-22), hit a seamount in the South China Sea on October 2, 2021 and propelled itself back to Guam for damage assessment and repairs. According to USNI News, USS Connecticut has since left Guam to sail back to the United States for further repairs although the U.S. Navy declined to comment beyond SSN-22’s repair and transit activities beyond Guam.
One of three expensive and highly-prized and in-demand Seawolf-class submarines, USS Connecticut is the second attack submarine of this unique nuclear-powered attack submarine class as the last and one-of-its-kind USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) was elongated and modified to conduct special operations missions, underwater salvage, and intelligence missions. The Seawolf-class subs often epitomize the apogee of the current U.S. Navy attack submarine fleet as newer, stealthier, more capable and more modern than the aging Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The end of the Cold War has drastically reduced the initially planned Seawolf-class numbers and the USS Virginia-class submarines were built as a cheaper and less capable alternative to the Seawolf-class.
Until the construction of the U.S. Navy’s future next-generation attack submarines, the SSN(X)
Program, the three Seawolf-class submarines represent some of the best submarine technologies that the United States Navy presently possesses.
Naval News reached out to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Force for more information as to
the status of the USS Connecticut. CDR Cindy Fields, Force Public Affairs Officer, Commander
Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet told Naval News via email on November, 23, 2021 that:
“USS Connecticut has been undergoing damage assessment, repairs and testing while in Guam. The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is the lead for assessing damage of the submarine. NAVSEA is providing an assessment team responsible for coordination of the damage assessment and development of repair recommendations, which is forwarded to the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and NAVSEA for approval. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is designated as Naval Supervising Authority for assessment and subsequent repairs. USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) is the lead maintenance activity in Guam.”
CDR Fields did not give any details to Naval News as to the amount of damage to the USS Connecticut as some believe that the sonar dome was sheared off, nor would the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force comment on if any debris from the USS Connecticut’s collision was left on the sea floor, and if so, what courses of action the U.S. Navy might take (leave the debris, retrieve it, or destroy it). The Navy also didn’t comment on what further repairs the USS Connecticut will undergo back in the United States and where. Due to the highly-secretive nature of the three Seawolf-class subs and the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines and their undersea operations, Naval News did not press for further comment.
USS Emory S. Land is just one of two aging 40+ year old U.S. Navy Submarine Tenders still in
active service that are forward-deployed and based at Guam.
CDR Hayley Sims, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. 7th Fleet, added
“Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet has lead for the command investigation which is currently being reviewed and endorsed. It will then be forwarded up the chain of command.”