Why Multi-Billion Dollar Nuclear Submarines Still Run Into Things Underwater

Why Multi-Billion Dollar Nuclear Submarines Still Run Into Things Underwater

On October 7, 2021, we learned that one of the U.S. Navy’s prized Seawolf class nuclear fast attack submarines—one of just three ever built—had suffered a serious underwater collision. The incident supposedly occurred while the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) was operating in or very near the tumultuous South China Sea. The damaged submarine subsequently limped its way to Guam so that the damage can be assessed. Thankfully, nobody on board died and the vessel’s nuclear reactor remained in a safe condition.

Exactly what Connecticut hit remains a mystery, but many have expressed their utter puzzlement to us as to how a multi-billion dollar nuclear submarine that is laden with some of the most capable sensors on the planet — literally one of the most advanced vehicles mankind has ever built — can just run into something below the waves.

A veteran submariner explains the challenges crews face navigating complex undersea environments that they can’t even see.