Submarine Captain Fired After Collision; Same Boat Once Attacked by Polar Bear

November 6, 2021Matt White
submarine captain fired

The USS Connecticut is in port in Guam after ramming an undersea mountain in the South China Sea last month. In 2003, the same sub surfaced through a sheet of ice in the Arctic and, for 40 minutes, drew the attention of a curious polar bear. Submarine: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro. Bear photo courtesy of US Navy.

The commander, executive officer, and senior enlisted sailor — or chief of the boat — of an attack submarine were fired for “loss of confidence” after their submarine hit an uncharted seamount in the South China Sea. The USS Connecticut struck an undersea object on Oct. 2, damaging the sub so badly that it surfaced and returned to its homeport in Guam.

US 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas ordered the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin, and Chief of the Boat Cory Rodgers removed from their positions. The Navy said Thomas determined 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.”

submarine captain fired Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani
Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, right, was relieved as the commanding officer of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut by 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas. Both men are pictured here aboard the Connecticut this August. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda S. Kitchner.

Launched in 1998, the Connecticut was the second of three Seawolf-class attack submarines, built to hunt other subs and boats. It is powered by an onboard nuclear reactor and is reportedly capable of reaching depths of a mile beneath the surface.

The submarine is now in Guam undergoing repairs.

The South China Sea is quickly becoming the epicenter of US-China naval friction. In 2018, the USS Decatur, a destroyer, had to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a Chinese warship. China has also built islands in the waters there that now house full-sized air bases.

polar bear bites submarine
A polar bear approached the USS Connecticut in 2003 as it surfaced through a sheet of Arctic ice. The bear reportedly pushed and even bit the tail of the boat for about 40 minutes. US Navy photos.

Though submariners refer to themselves as “the Silent Service,” the collision was not the Connecticut’s first brush with fame. In 2003, the sub surfaced through a sheet of polar ice as part of an exercise. As its tail stuck through the ice, a local polar bear came to investigate. The bear was likely drawn by the open hole left by the sub, through which it hoped to reach food.

For several moments, the bear jumped on and pushed — and appeared to bite — the boat’s tail.

Unlike the Connecticut’s recent cruise, the Navy confirmed at the time that neither the sub nor the bear sustained permanent damage.

Read Next: Navy Nuclear Engineer Charged With Trying To Sell Submarine Secrets

Matt White
Matt White

Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.

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