Navy memo orders review of fleet operations, incidents at sea in the wake of deadly collision
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes/Released(WASHINGTON) — The vice chief of naval operations has issued additional guidance for the review of the Navy’s operations, following another deadly collision in the Pacific.
In a memorandum dated Aug. 24, Adm. William Moran directed the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command to “lead a Comprehensive Review of surface fleet operations and incidents at sea that have occurred over the past decade with emphasis on [7th] Fleet operational employment to inform improvements Navy-wide.”
On Monday local time, 7th Fleet’s guided-missile destroyer the USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker east of Singapore. In the days following the incident, two sailors’ remains have been identified, as the search continues inside the ship for the eight sailors still missing.
In June, another destroyer from the 7th Fleet, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan, killing seven sailors who could not escape flooded areas inside the ship.
Thursday’s memo detailed two other incidents with 7th Fleet ships in the past year, including the USS Champlain hitting a South Korean fishing boat in May and the USS Antietam running aground in Tokyo Bay in January.
Moran has ordered the review, which was announced by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson earlier this week, completed within 60 days.
On Wednesday, the Navy removed from duty the three-star admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet, Adm. Joseph Aucoin, due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command.”
Aucoin was already slated to retire in September, but his relief from command shows the Navy’s focus on accountability in the wake of the four incidents this year.
During this comprehensive review, the Navy will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the McCain’s collision. A U.S. official told ABC News that an initial report indicated that the McCain reported a loss of steering in the minutes before the collision.
Even if the McCain lost steering ability, the official cautioned, the crew should have been trained to handle such a situation and take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.
The 7th Fleet is the Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, with as many as 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors in the region at any given time, according to the Navy.
“[7th] Fleet’s area of operation spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South,” the Navy said.
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