Nuclear-powered Submarine Struck Underwater Mountain, U.S. Navy Confirms

An American nuclear-powered submarine that reportedly collided with an unknown object in the South China Sea last month is thought to have struck an underwater mountain, the U.S. Navy said on Monday.

The Seawolf Class attack boat USS Connecticut is moored at Guam, where it was assessed for repairs following the October 2 incident, which left 11 sailors with non-life-threatening injuries, according to United States Naval Institute (USNI) News.

In a brief statement, the U.S. 7th Fleet said an investigation had determined that the submarine "grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region."

The Navy has not acknowledged the precise location of the collision, reported as the South China Sea.

Officials told USNI News that the 7th Fleet would make a further determination regarding possible additional accountability over the incident, which forced the vessel to the surface before sailing for a week to Guam.

According to the Navy, the boat's nuclear propulsion system was not damaged, but China has latched on to the accident and is pushing a campaign against freedom of navigation operations in its contested surrounding waters.

Coming on the back of the AUKUS security pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australia, Beijing is also using USS Connecticut's collision to suggest fears of a possible nuclear leak.

At a monthly press conference last Thursday, China's Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said the Navy's submarine accident was the result of an American-made military tensions in the region.

"We reiterate that the United States must take the concerns of all parties seriously, take a responsible attitude and give a detailed explanation of the incident as soon as possible, so as to satisfactorily address the concerns of the international community as well as regional countries," said Tan.

China has expressed similar sentiments through its Foreign Ministry and state-owned media outlets.

On Sunday, public flight trackers appeared to show a U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix operating in the northeastern section of the South China Sea, between Taiwan and China, along with a number of other American reconnaissance planes.

The special purpose aircraft—nicknamed the "nuke sniffer"—collects atmospheric samples for the purpose of detecting radiation.

Chinese military analysts told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post on Tuesday the Air Force may have been trying to confirm that no leak took place in the aftermath of USS Connecticut's collision. The U.S. may also have been trying to detect Chinese nuclear tests, they said.

U.S. Nuclear Submarine Grounded On Seamount
File: The Seawolf class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut departs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for sea trials following a maintenance availability, on December 15, 2016. Thiep Van Nguyen II/U.S. Navy