The Navy Times reports that the USS John McCain was tracking a PLAN submarine when its towed sonar array collided with the Chinese naval vessel. The Navy Times said,
Two defense officials have confirmed that the crew aboard the destroyer John S. McCain was tracking the submarine that struck its towed sonar array June 10 in the South China Sea off the Philippines. The officials, who are familiar with the incident but were not authorized to speak on the subject, confirmed the array, which trailed up to a mile behind the ship, was hit by a Chinese navy submarine, although it was not sighted on the surface. Days after the incident, Chinese officials acknowledged that the submarine was theirs.
The McCain crew was able to retrieve the sonar array, which was damaged, although it’s not clear whether it was retrieved intact, the defense officials said. A mishap investigation is ongoing. The destroyer, based in Yokosuka, Japan, pulled into port in Sasebo after the incident but soon went back to sea.
The officials would not specify whether the submarine was an attack boat or a ballistic-missile sub, and they were unsure of the time of the incident, which occurred in “international waters” south of Subic Bay. The Associated Press reported that the collision took place 144 miles from Subic Bay, potentially placing it in the Mindoro Strait.
According to STRATFOR (subscription required article), the submarine was probably monitoring the CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) exercises. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises between the US, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. The Philippines was participating in its 15th CARAT exercise. The significance of the event, according to STRATFOR, is that it highlights the growing US-Chinese naval rivalry in the area. One can speculate that the Chinese were collecting information to update their acoustic and electronic signatures library. Unfortunately for the PLAN, the US was doing the same.