The commander, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor for attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN-22) have been fired following the results of an investigation into the Oct. 2 underwater collision in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Thursday.
Connecticut commanding officer Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin and Chief of the Boat Cory Rodgers were removed from their positions at the direction of U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas.
The reliefs are “due to loss of confidence. Thomas determined sound judgement, prudent decision-making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident,” reads a statement from the Navy. “Capt. John Witte will assume duties as interim Commanding Officer. Cmdr. Joe Sammur will assume duties as interim Executive Officer. Command Master Chief Paul Walters will assume duties as interim Chief of the Boat.”
The reliefs follow the completion of the investigation into the Oct. 2 collision in which the nuclear attack submarine collided with an uncharted underwater seamount in the South China Sea.
“The investigation determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Hayley Sims told USNI News in a Monday afternoon statement.
The submarine is now in Guam undergoing repairs overseen by Naval Sea Systems Command, personnel from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39).
On Thursday, the Navy announced Connecticut would return to Bremerton, Wash., for repairs.
The Navy has not released damage information for Connecticut but sources have confirmed to USNI News that the forward section of the submarine was struck, damaging the ballast tanks. The damage to the tanks forced the submarine to transit for a week on the surface to Guam.
Earlier this week, the Chinese foreign ministry renewed calls for the U.S. to disclose additional details about the incident.
The U.S. “has yet to give clear answers to questions like the intention of the operation, the exact location of the incident, whether it lies in the exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of any country, and whether the collision led to a nuclear leak or polluted the marine environment, all causing great concern and doubt,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday. “We once again urge the U.S. to give a detailed description of the incident and fully address regional countries’ concern and doubt.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told USNI News on Thursday that the Defense Department has not provided Beijing any additional information on the collision