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Rediff.com  » News » Chinese sub, US sonar collision could be accidental, say experts

Chinese sub, US sonar collision could be accidental, say experts

June 15, 2009 16:55 IST

A Chinese submarine's reported "inadvertent encounter" with an underwater sonar apparatus towed by a US destroyer in the South China Sea was probably an accident, the state media reported on Monday. Citing Chinese military experts, 'China Daily' said that the submarine's collision with the sonar array connected to the USS John S McCain while sailing near the Philippines probably occurred due to a "misjudgment of distance". "It is highly likely the recent collision of a Chinese submarine and an underwater sonar array towed by a US warship in the South China Sea was due to misjudgment of distance," it said.

The Chinese conjecture is in line with the United States view of "inadvertent encounter", it said. The collision occurred on June 11, as the destroyer USS John S McCain was sailing in the South China Sea, CNN reported. The sonar array, which scans and listens for threats that also include mines and torpedoes, was damaged in the incident, but fortunately the sub and the ship did not collide, it said. The official said the US Navy does not consider the incident a harassing move by Beijing, as it would have been extremely dangerous had the array got caught in the submarine's propellers.

So far, both China's Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon have yet to comment on the incident. "The destroyer USS John S McCain isn't a professional anti-sub ship, while such US destroyers stopped carrying sonar arrays after the collapse of the former Soviet Union," said Yin Zhuo, a senior researcher with the People's Liberation Army Navy Equipment Research Centre.

"According to the CNN report, the US destroyer seems to have failed to detect the (Chinese) sub, while the sub set its distance from the US ship based on the assumption it wasn't carrying sonar arrays. It's highly possible that's the reason for the incident," Yin said. According to media reports, the US destroyer, along with three other US warships, was on an annual joint exercise near Subic Bay, off the coast of the Philippines.

The US vessels were with the navies from six Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines and Malaysia. One of the four US ships is the USNS Chung-Hoon, one of the world's most advanced destroyers. Major General Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, said though the collision was accidental, the existence of US ships in the South China Sea is cause for potential incidents. "The best way to avoid such collisions is for the Pentagon to stop its unfriendly moves toward China in this region," he said.

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