An unplanned simulation of an attack was initiated by a Chinese attack submarine on a USS Reagan aircraft carrier. The purpose of this was to simulate an unexpected cruise missile attack.
According to defense officials the incident occurred near the Sea of Japan in October, which violated the 2014 multinational Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) which China had signed up to with the U.S.
CUES was designed to reduce the risk of a shooting incident such as this one from occurring between two naval vessels.US officials have said they are taking the incident as extremely serious.
A section of the non-binding 2014 agreement states that commanders at sea should avoid actions that could lead to accidents or mishaps. Among the actions to be avoided are “simulation of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of vessels or aircraft encountered.”
Navy officials recently briefed congressional staff on the incident that took place during the weekend of Oct. 24—days before the Navy warship USS Lassens sailed within 12 miles of disputed Chinese islands in the South China Sea, triggering vocal criticism from Beijing.
The Obama administration has kept details of the submarine targeting incident secret to avoid upsetting military relations between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army.
Disclosure of the aircraft carrier targeting comes as two Chinese navy warships arrived in Pearl Harbor on Sunday.
China’s official news agency said the ships’ visit to Hawaii will last five days. “During the fleet’s stay here, the U.S. navy and the Chinese fleet will hold receptions for each other,” Xinhua said. “Friendly sports activities, such as basketball and soccer games, will be held between the two sides.”
Rick Fisher, a China military specialist at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Chinese navy operates several types of submarines capable of firing anti-ship cruise missiles.
Fisher said the incident was serious because a U.S.-China shootout would likely result in the destruction of the Chinese submarine and the loss of its crew. “Even though China would have been at fault for the incident, the Chinese government would likely then use it as an excuse for initiating a series of attacks or incidents against U.S. naval forces,” he said.
A Chinese military analyst recently revealed that China is closely studying a report from earlier this year revealing that a small nuclear-powered French submarine successfully conducted a simulated attack on the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt, sinking the ship and several support ships in the simulation.
The October showdown between the Chinese submarine and the Reagan took place as the carrier sailed around the southern end of Japan on the way exercises in the Sea of Japan along with four other strike group warships.
Days after the incident, two Russian strategic bombers flew within a mile of the carrier at a height of 500 feet, prompting F-18s from the ship to scramble and intercept them.
The October incident was not the first time a Chinese submarine threatened a U.S. carrier strike group.
In 2006, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the USS Kitty Hawk.
Wen Bing, a researcher at the Chinese army’s Academy of Military Sciences, told the newspaper that the code of conduct and U.S.-China warship exercise at the time “demonstrate the resolve of both countries to deepen military ties and avoid a maritime conflict escalating due to a lack of communication.”