USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV 63) fourteenth deployment in early 1984 found her at the center of a great deal of activity. During the joint United States/Republic of Korea Exercise Team Spirit 84-1, Kitty Hawk’s Battle Group Bravo encountered numerous Soviet forces during the eight-day event. Reconnaissance aircraft overflew the group 43 times while six Soviet surface units and one submarine made an appearance.
It was the submarine, however, that had a lasting impact on the ship and its cruise. At 2207 on 21 March the submarine surfaced and collided with the carrier. The captain and starboard lookout both saw the silhouette of a sub without navigation lights moving away from the ship. Two SH-3H helicopters inspected the sub without noting any apparent damage, but a large piece of the submarine’s screw had broken off in Kitty Hawk’s hull.
The submarine was believed to be a Victor-I class attack boat, tentatively identified as K-314 (610). During the exercise it had been tracked and “killed” more than fifteen times after it was spotted on the surface fifty miles in front of the battle group.
The collision occurred despite the Incidents at Sea agreement that SECNAV John Warner and Admiral Sergei Gorshkov had signed in 1972. This agreement, designed to uphold the United States’ long cherished belief in freedom of the seas and prevent dangerous and hostile collisions at sea, was ignored in this instance. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James Watkins reflected, “The reason behind the Soviet submarine captain’s slip in judgment is the only mystery here. He showed uncharacteristically poor seamanship in not staying clear of Kitty Hawk. That should cause concern in Moscow.”