Navy Sub Crews Told to Stand Down After Preventable Collision in the Pacific

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The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut departs Puget Sound.
The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut departs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington, for sea trials following a maintenance availability. (Thiep Van Nguyen II/U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy has ordered all submarine crews to conduct a navigation stand down -- a period of  additional training -- after an underwater collision damaged a sub in the South China Sea last month.

Cmdr. Paul Macapagal, a spokesman for the commander of all submarine forces, said crews will be reviewing lessons learned from the USS Connecticut collision as well as the Navy’s existing rules on sound navigation practices. 

That will include the “required procedures in navigation planning, operations, risk management and best practices,” he said in a phone interview. 

Vice Adm. William Houston and Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon, the Navy’s top two submarine commanders, released a joint message ordering the stand down Wednesday, but Macapagal emphasized that it will not impact submarine operations. 

The USS Connecticut, a Seawolf-class submarine, struck an unidentified seamount or underwater mountain on Oct. 2. The boat has since sailed to Guam, where it is undergoing a damage assessment, repairs and testing, Cmdr. Cindy Fields, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Submarine Force, told Military.com in a statement. 

The collision also led the Navy to fire the boat’s top two officers and its highest enlisted sailor.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, relieved Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani as commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin as executive officer, and Master Chief Sonar Technician Cory Rodgers as chief of the boat, due to “loss of confidence.”

The Navy has not released details about the nature of the damage the collision caused to the Connecticut. 

An earlier statement from the Navy noted that an investigation determined the Connecticut “grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region.” 

The investigation also found 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.” 

The Navy said that the submarine will eventually return to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin. 

Related: China Accuses US of 'Lack of Transparency' Over Sub Accident

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