- GlobalSecurity: SSN 22 Connecticut
The USS Connecticut was christened on September 1, 1997 at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. Seawolf-class attack subs are the most advanced, but also the most expensive submarines in the US Navy’s arsenal. The USS Connecticut is one of just three Seawolf-class subs to be commissioned, with 26 boats canceled in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War due to the programme being deemed too expensive. The super-quiet attack subs feature a nuclear propulsion system, meaning their range and endurance are effectively limited only by onboard supplies and the resolve of their crews. The subs’ armament consists of Mark 48 torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and land-attack cruise missiles.
USS Connecticut (SSN 22) struck an object while submerged on 02 October 2021, while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region. The US Navy said, „it’s unclear what the Seawolf-class submarine may have hit while it was submerged,“ adding that the submarine remains in a safe and stable condition, with its nuclear propulsion plant and spaces unaffected. Nearly a dozen crew members were reportedly hurt, but none of the injuries are considered life-threatening.
To remain stealthy, submarines would often turn off their active sonar so others cannot detect them. Although it is not clear what object struck the USS Connecticut, it was not another submarine. The 2009 smash-up between two nuclear-powered submarines of France and the UK invlved the HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant, which collided in the night between 3 and 4 February 2009. The two subs were „badly damaged“ although they came into contact at low speed and no injuries were reported.
US defence officials later revealed to CBS News that the incident took place in the highly contested South China Sea, most of which is claimed by the People’s Republic of China. The decision not to make the news immediately public was apparently made „to maintain operational security and be aware that such an accident could worsen the current geopolitical situation between the two countries.
The South China Sea Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank, said that based on satellite imagery, the USS Connecticut was spotted in waters off the Paracel islands on 03 October 2021, one day after the reported collision. It suggested that the U.S. submarine could have been “assigned to guard the (aircraft carrier) USS Carl Vinson or to spy on PLA’s SSBNs” – Chinese army ballistic missile submarines. While not commenting about the Chinese think tank’s suggestion, Rear Adm. James Goldrick, fellow at the naval research institute Sea Power Centre – Australia, said submarines have the right under the UN Law of the Sea to operate submerged anywhere in the seas outside the 12 nautical mile territorial limit of coastal states.
China expressed grave concern about the accident involving US submarine USS Connecticut hitting an unknown object in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Oct 08, 2021, urging the US to clarify more details about the accident, its purpose of cruising in the area, and whether it has caused a nuclear leak that has damaged the local marine environment.
„I want to stress that the root cause of the incident, which also poses a serious threat and significant risks to regional peace and stability, is the US‘ constant stirring up of trouble in the South China Sea over a long period of time,“ Zhao noted. „The US has deliberately delayed and concealed details of the incident, lacked transparency regardless of its responsibility,“ Zhao added, „making China and countries around the area question the truth of the incident and real intentions of the US.“
The USS Connecticut’s mysterious collision in the South China Sea coincided with joint military exercises carried out north of Taiwan by US and UK aircraft carriers together with Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand. On 2 October and 3 October, a total of 17 surface warships from the six countries participated in joint drills in the region off the southwest coast of Okinawa.
The US nuclear submarines normally sail in the South China Sea at over 100 meters deep underwater. If it collided with a reef or another submarine, the resulting damage would likely be serious. But judging from the official statement of the US Navy that it „remains in a safe and stable condition,“ the submarine was most likely hit by an unmanned underwater detection vehicle, as such vehicles are small in size and would not pose much damages to the vessel. The US navy has put a significant number of such devices in the area to detect the hydrological characteristics of the South China Sea and Western submarine operations.
One seemingly unfounded fake new rumor on Chinese social media platforms was that the object could belong to the China South China Sea Aquaculture and Fisheries Company, citing an alleged report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) that said the company’s yellow croaker breeding cage was recently hit by an „unknown object“ and a total of 25,000 kilograms of aquaculture products, worth about 400 million yuan ($62 million), were lost.
It is very unlikely that the US submarine hit a Chinese fishing gear in international waters in the South China Sea as most of China’s yellow croaker breeding cages are located in East China’s Fujian. The fish raised in the South China Sea belong to other species like cobias. Moreover, China’s fish breeding cages are mostly located in an enclosed sea area and only a few are in the open sea.
US submarines have had collision accidents due to operational errors in the past. For example, in February, 2001, the Los Angeles class nuclear-powered US submarine USS Greeneville struck and sank a Japanese fishing vessel identified as the Ehime Maru during routine operations off the coast of Hawaii, killing nine. In November, 2002, another Los Angeles class nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Oklahoma City, damaged it’s periscope and lifting gear when it collided with a tanker in the Mediterranean. In 2005, the nuclear attack submarine USS San Francisco ran into an undersea mountain in the waters near Guam, killing one of its crew.
In 2009, a Chinese submarine collided with a sonar array being towed by the U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain near Subic Bay in the Philippines, causing damage to the sonar but no further details were provided.
Alpha Sea Trials consisted of operating the propulsion plant at full power and diving to 77 percent of test depth. Connecticut was able to complete this evolution ahead of schedule and returned to port early. Admiral Frank „Skip“ Bowman, Director of Nuclear Propulsion, was on hand for these first tests and was thoroughly impressed by Connecticut’s performance. Next, the Bravo Sea Trials required diving to test depth and checking all major hull, machinery, and electrical equipment. On Connecticut, the Charlie Sea Trial, which includes builder’s noise surveys and certification of the combat system and sonar installation, was combined with the Bravo tests.
This consolidation of the Bravo and Charlie trials was based on high confidence that the Connecticut’s systems would operate well and prior experience with the first-of-class USS Seawolf (SSN-21). To accomplish a task of this magnitude and risk, Connecticut’s crew and shipyard workers tested combat systems pierside while correcting minor material deficiencies identified from the Alpha Sea Trials. Although a compacted schedule of this type had never been attempted before, Connecticut’s crew and General Dynamics‘ Electric Boat Corporation worked closely together to carry it off superbly. „The key to success during the combined Bravo/Charlie Trials was continued close cooperation between the ship and the shipyard. As was true during the entire construction period, the crew and Electric Boat personnel worked together as an effective team, and everything came out right,“ said CAPT Larry Davis, Commanding Officer of PCU Connecticut. The effort saved more than two weeks in the testing schedule and generated almost one million dollars in cost avoidance. PCU Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) will also incorporate this approach into its trial plan.
Connecticut continued with a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) trial to certify the ship’s material readiness condition prior to her delivery in November.
SSN 22 was commissioned on December 11, 1998. Connecticut is the second ship of the Seawolf class, the most capable attack submarine ever built. This submarine is named for the 5th State of the Union. Four previous U.S. Navy ships have been named Connecticut.
In 2003, after surfacing in an ice pack between the North Pole and Alaska, the same USS Connecticut was stalked by a polar bear for 30 minutes. Luckily the bear only chewed briefly on the rudder and didn’t cause any damage to the submarine.
USS Connecticut (SSN 22) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London on September 2, 2004 after completing a nearly six-month deployment as part of the USS Wasp (LHD 1) Expeditionary Strike Group. Thie maked the first time an Atlantic Coast submarine had deployed as part of the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) concept. In addition to being a member of the ESG, Connecticut was the first Seawolf-class SSN to moor outboard of a surface ship while forward deployed.
Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR) officially commenced Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 in the Arctic Ocean with the construction of a temporary ice camp, Camp Seadragon, and the arrival of two U.S. Navy fast-attack submarines, March 4. ICEX 2020 is a three week biennial exercise that offers the Navy the opportunity to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic and train with other services, partner nations and allies to increase experience in the region, and maintain regional stability while improving capabilities to operate in the Arctic environment. USS Connecticut (SSN 22) from Bremerton, Washington, and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769) from Groton, Connecticut, will conduct multiple Arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing and other training evolutions during their time in the region.
The First Connecticut
The first CONNECTICUT, a gondola, had a complement of 45 and carried an armament of one 12-pounder and two 9-pounders. She was built at Skenesborough, N.Y., in 1776 for service with the Continental Army on Lake Champlain. Commanded by Army Captain Grant, she joined General Benedict Arnold’s fleet by 20 August 1776 and took part in the Battle of Valcour Island on 11, 12, and 13 October 1776. This fleet action on Lake Champlain effectively delayed the British advance from Canada, and gained for the United States valuable time to strengthen their forces which made possible the decisive American victory at Saratoga on 17 October 1777. Threatened with capture at Split Rock on the last day of battle, CONNECTICUT was burned on Arnold’s orders to prevent her capture by the enemy.
The Second Connecticut
The second CONNECTICUT displaced 492 tons and had a complement of 180 and carried an armament of twenty-six 12-pounders. She was built by Seth Overton at Chatham, CONNECTICUT and launched 6 June 1799 at Middletown, CONNECTICUT. She sailed 15 October 1799 under the command Captain M. Tryon for the Guadaloupe Station, and cruised in the West Indies for a year during the Quasi-War with France, protecting American commerce from French privateers. CONNECTICUT’s successful career was highlighted by the capture of four privateers and the recapture of seven American merchantmen. Arriving at New London, CONNECTICUT, 18 October 1800, CONNECTICUT was sold at New York in 1801.
The Third Connecticut
The third CONNECTICUT, a side wheel steamer with a displacement of 1,725 tons, had a length of 251′ 6″, a beam of 38′ 2″ and depth (in hold) of 22′ 8″. She had a speed of 10 knots, a complement of 166 and an armament of four 32-pounders and one 12-pounder. She was built in 1861 by William Webb, N.Y.; purchased by the Navy 18 July 1861; and commissioned 23 August 1861, Commander M. Woodhull in command.
CONNECTICUT sailed on her first voyage 25 August 1861, delivered men and supplies to ships on the blockade along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts as far as Galveston, Texas, and returned to New York 29 September. Following two patrols, from 16 to 24 October and from 10 November to 17 December in search of Confederate State cruiser Nashville, CONNECTICUT returned to cargo duty, making five voyages similar to her first between 7 January and 15 November 1862. She also captured four schooners with valuable cargo during this period.
Out of commission for repairs at New York from 24 November to 15 December 1862, CONNECTICUT left in tow of Montauk 24 December for duty as convoy and tow ship off Aspinwall, Panama, until returning to New York 6 June 1863. During CONNECTICUT’s next cruise, from 10 August 1863 to 25 July 1864, she operated most successfully with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Virginia and North Carolina. She captured five vessels and drove a sixth ashore, abandoned and burned by its crew. Included were the English steamer Minnie, captured 9 May 1864 with a cargo of cotton, tobacco, turpentine, and gold, one of the most valuable prizes taken during the war; and the British steamer Greyhound, taken on 10 May, which carried in addition to her cargo of cotton, tobacco, and turpentine, the famous Confederate spy Belle Boyd.
Following another cruise carrying men to the fleet between 30 July and 5 October 1864, CONNECTICUT was placed out of commission at Boston from 7 October 1864 to 17 February 1865. Her last cruise from 21 February to 3 August 1865 was in the West Indies and on the east coast, searching for Confederate privateers and towing monitors from Port Royal to Philadelphia. CONNECTICUT was decommissioned 11 August 1865 at Philadelphia Navy Yard and sold 21 September 1865.
Pompanoosuc, a screw steamer whose building began at Boston Navy Yard about 1863, was renamed CONNECTICUT 15 May 1869, but was never launched; she was condemned and broken up in 1884.
The monitor CONNECTICUT was renamed Nevada (q.v.) in January 1901, while building.
The fourth CONNECTICUT (BB-18) displaced 16,000 tons and had a length of 456′ 4″, a beam of 76′ 10″, a draft of 24′ 6″ and a speed of 18 knots. She had a complement of 827 and had an armament of four 12″ guns, eight 8″ guns and twelve 7″ guns. She was launched 29 September 1904 by New York Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss A. Welles, granddaughter of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War; and commissioned 29 September 1906, Captain W. Swift in command.
Joining the Atlantic Fleet, CONNECTICUT became flagship 16 April 1907, and later that month joined in the Presidential Fleet Review and other ceremonies opening the Jamestown Exposition. On 16 December 1907, still flagship, she sailed from Hampton Roads on the cruise round the world of the Great White Fleet. On 8 may 1908, the Atlantic Fleet joined the Pacific Fleet in San Francisco Bay for a review by the Secretary of the Navy, and the combined fleets continued their cruise, with CONNECTICUT as flagship, showing the flag and bringing a show of American strength to many parts of the world. The fleet returned to Hampton Roads 22 February 1909.
Continuing to serve as flagship for the Atlantic Fleet until 1912, CONNECTICUT cruised the east coast and the Caribbean from her base at Norfolk, conducting training and joining in ceremonial observances. Between 2 November 1910 and 17 March 1911, she made an extended cruise in European waters on a scouting problem. Between 1913 and 1915, CONNECTICUT served with the Fourth Division, Atlantic Fleet, usually as flagship. Aside from a brief cruise to the Mediterranean in October and November 1913, she served in the Caribbean, protecting American citizens and interests during disturbances in Mexico and Haiti. After repairs and temporary service as receiving ship at Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1916, CONNECTICUT returned to full commission 3 October 1916 as flagship of the Fifth Division, Battleship Force, Atlantic Fleet. She operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean until the United States entered World War I.
Based in the York River, Virginia, during the waR, she exercised in Chesapeake Bay, and trained both midshipmen and gun crews for merchant ships. At the close of the war, she was fitted out for transport duty, and between 6 January and 22 June 1919 made four voyages to return troops from France. On 23 June 1919, she was reassigned, becoming flagship of Battleship Squadron 2, Atlantic Fleet. In the summer of 1920, CONNECTICUT sailed to the Caribbean and the west coast on a midshipman-Naval Reserve training cruise.
The next summer found her in European ports on similar duty, and upon her return to Philadelphia 21 August 1921, was reassigned as flagship Train, Pacific Fleet. She arrived at San Pedro, California, 28 October, and during the following year cruised along the west coast, taking part in exercises and commemorations. Entering Puget Sound Navy Yard 16 December 1922, CONNECTICUT was decommissioned there 1 March 1923, and sold for scrapping 1 November 1923, in accordance with the Washington Treaty for the limitation of naval armaments.