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Nuclear-powered sub accident a reason to reconsider AUKUS.

Written by: Nick G. on 11 October 2021


Just as the French Ambassador to Australia returns to Canberra in the wake of the controversy over the tearing up of its contract to build submarines for Australia, news has come through of an accident involving a US nuclear submarine in the crowded South China Seas.

The USS Connecticut (pictured) hit an unidentified object while prowling through the seas to the south of China last Saturday, injuring a number of sailors in the vessel. The collision was not announced by the US Navy until Thursday.

US authorities quickly denied that any damage had been done to the submarine’s nuclear propulsion plant.

US news media generally dismissed the reports in one or two opening paragraphs of articles that instead focused on China’s “provocative and aggressive” flying of fighter jets over its own territory, Taiwan Province.

The US nuclear submarines are part of a “major multinational show of force in the region led by the United Kingdom's Carrier Strike Group 21. The ongoing operations saw exercises with ships from the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, including three aircraft carriers, training in and around the South China Sea”, according to CNN two days ago.

Imagine if a multinational force of China, Russia and Iran were to conduct a “show of force” in international waters off Long Island, the Florida Keys, or in the Gulf of Mexico. 

China expressed “grave concern” over the incident and called on the US to release more information. The Chinese said that while the submarine may have collided with another submarine, or hot an underwear reef, the most likely cause of the collision was an unmanned underwater detection vehicle, as such vehicles are small in size and would not pose much damages to the vessel. 

According to the Chinese, 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 China's submarine operations, so it could be that "the US shot itself in the foot."

The last time a U.S. Navy submarine is known to have had a serious collision was in 2005, when the USS San Francisco hit an undersea mountain at full speed. That crash left one sailor dead and most crew members injured. The captain and several other senior officers were relieved of their duty, as it emerged that they had been using outdated seafloor charts, despite having up-to-date maps available. That incident occurred near the U.S. territory of Guam, thousands of miles east of the contentious waters off China's coast.

In 2001, the US "Los Angeles" class "Greenville" attack nuclear submarine rose from a 120-meter underwater drill, and as a result, it collided with the 700-ton Japanese trawler "Ehime", causing 9 people on board the ship to be missing. 

Australia’s decision to switch to a nuclear-powered submarine fleet through AUKUS arrangements is contributing to regional tensions based on assumptions about who those submarines are designed to intimidate and target, and under whose direction. They are intended to raise the level of Australian “interoperability with US imperialism, which at the same time will lower our capacity for independent decision-making. 

We are not apologists for Chinese social-imperialism (China still proclaims it is socialist, but has its own imperialist ambitions).  However, it is clear who is responsible for keeping regional tensions on the boil, and who is making serious preparations for war against a regional neighbour.


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