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2 years after the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, the Navy has no idea if its new ship-driving training is working
Two years after a pair of deadly collisions involving Navy ships killed 17 sailors and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, the Navy still can't figure out whether its plan to improve ship-driving training has been effective.
In fact, according to senior Navy officials quoted in a recent Government Accountability Office report on Navy ship-driving, it could take nearly 16 years or more to know if the planned changes will actually have an impact.
Repairs have been completed on the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, which was involved in a collision in 2017 that left 10 sailors dead and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and the vessel is now conducting "comprehensive at-sea testing," the U.S. Navy said Monday.
In its first sea voyage since the deadly accident, the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based ship and its crew were due to perform a series of demonstrations to evaluate whether its onboard systems meet the U.S. Navy's minimum performance specifications.
The former captain of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald who was in command during a 2017 collision that killed seven sailors will appear before a board of inquiry that could determine if he will be reduced in rank and what kind of discharge he will receive, a Navy official said.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson was asleep in his stateroom when the Fitzgerald was struck by a merchant ship in the early hours of June 17, 2017. The Navy initially charged Benson with negligent homicide, but that charge was dismissed in June 2018 and all other charges against Benson were dropped in April, in part because top Navy leaders had repeatedly blamed him for the tragedy, running afoul of unlawful command influence.
Navy putting physical throttles on destroyers after touch-screen system contributed to deadly collision
The Navy will install physical throttles on destroyers that currently use touch screen systems nearly two years after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker, which investigators blamed partially on the ship's Integrated Bridge and Navigation System.
Ten sailors aboard the McCain were killed on Aug. 21, 2017, when the destroyer turned into an oil tanker in the Singapore Strait. The collision was the result of a series of errors by the McCain's crew that began when a watch stander mistakenly transferred steering to another station.
In the confusion that followed, only one of the McCain's two propellers was slowed, causing the McCain to turn faster into the oil tanker's path, the National Transportation Safety Board found in a recent report.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will dismiss all charges against the former captain of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the tactical action officer during a collision two years ago that killed seven sailors.
"At the recommendation of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer will issue a Secretarial Letter of Censure to USS Fitzgerald former commanding officer Cmdr. Bryce Benson and former crew member Lt. Natalie Combs," the Navy announced late on Wednesday.
Facing a shortfall of roughly 6,200 sailors at sea, top Navy commanders promised lawmakers that they won't force undermanned and undertrained crews to deploy.
In 2017, the destroyers USS FItzgerald and USS John S. McCain were involved in separate collisions in the Pacific that claimed the lives of 17 sailors. Since then, the Navy has tackled the underlying causes of the deadly collisions by increasing the size of destroyers' crews and adding training for surface warfare officers. But the Navy still does not have enough sailors at sea.