1:54 am | Friday, February 1st, 2013
In Tom Clancy’s world of fiction, it’s a US nuclear submarine that fights China over the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The submarine, according to Wikipedia, is the USS Cheyenne, a nuclear attack submarine belonging to the US Pacific Fleet.
In Clancy’s novel “SSN,” the Cheyenne battles China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warships in the disputed Spratlys.
The Cheyenne is arriving Friday in the former US naval base on Subic Bay, Zambales province, not to battle the PLA but for a “routine port visit,” according to the US Embassy.
Unfortunately the Cheyenne is arriving amid deep embarrassment for the US Navy whose minesweeper USS Guardian is stuck on the southern atoll in the Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco-World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.
In a still unexplained misadventure, the Guardian ran aground on the atoll on Jan. 17.
As the ship is badly damaged, the US Navy has decided to break it apart.
The US Navy is facing investigation and fines in the Philippines for the mess.
The Cheyenne, commissioned in 1996, left port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December for a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific, the US Navy said on its website.
The port call at Subic “will permit the Cheyenne to replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation,” the US Embassy said in a statement issued Thursday.
The Embassy did not say how long the submarine will stay in the Philippines.
The Pacific Fleet describes the 110-meter-long Cheyenne as “one of the most capable nuclear attack submarines in the world.”
The Cheyenne is known to have launched Tomahawk missiles during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to bring down the dictator Saddam Hussein and flush out his alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Saddam fell but no WMD was found anywhere in Iraq.
The US Navy website says the submarine is armed with harpoons, Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes and is capable of laying mines.
The US Navy says the Cheyenne has a crew of 129 sailors.
The activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which has long opposed US military presence in the Philippines, criticized the Cheyenne’s visit, saying it “sends the wrong message that the Philippine government is a pushover.”
“We have to make a point and send a clear message that what happened in Tubbataha was wrong and that the US should be accountable. We can’t act as if it’s business as usual, as if nothing happened,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.