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"USS Fitzgerald Combat Team Unaware of Approaching Ship" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian11 May 2018 4:59 a.m. PST

The sailors who were manning the combat nerve center of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) did not know they were on a collision course with a ship almost three times their size until about one minute before impact, according to new information revealed in the preliminary hearing for two junior officers accused of negligent homicide for their role in the collision that resulted in the death of seven sailors…


Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 6:53 a.m. PST

I have a dislike of this trial if I read it right (I hope I don't) the powers that be seem to be finding a scapegoat rather than trying to correct faults so it does not happen again. We to often do this.


Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 7:12 a.m. PST

Very odd.


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 7:26 a.m. PST

After the disaster at Trenton, the Landgrave of Hess convened a court of enquiry to see what happened. Diligently, the court blamed only officers who were killed.
That's how it's done.

RobSmith11 May 2018 7:48 a.m. PST

The Captain and XO are scheduled to be court martialed, too. However, from the testimony of other officers who served on the ships, it should be the admirals of 7th Fleet who are on trial for forcing the ships to go out against regs, when equipment, personnel and training are far below minimum requirements for safety.

Desert Fox11 May 2018 8:31 a.m. PST

Is it possible there was some sort of interference or jamming of the shipboard systems?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 8:48 a.m. PST

Why propose conspiracy when incompetence is always a better explanation?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 8:51 a.m. PST

Winston: "Why propose conspiracy when incompetence is always a better explanation?"

That's what everyone in a conspiracy hopes we do.


zoneofcontrol11 May 2018 9:15 a.m. PST

The admiral who commanded the 7th Fleet, of which the Fitzgerald was part, was relieved of command. I don't remember if he has or will face any further charges and/or discipline. And as stated in the linked article, the skipper and xo were both relieved of command and face charges.

After the fact, there was a lot of he said/she said commenting on mistrust in capabilities of the shipmates responsible for operating the ship which lead to a lack of communication. Add to this the claims that it was common practice to send ships to sea without key personnel and broken or missing equipment that should have kept these boats in port.

In peacetime, this will get, and has indeed gotten, people killed. In a combat situation, this could easily lead to a much larger loss of life and even the ship itself. Losing this ship's capabilities temporarily or permanently, would have a domino effect of endangering surrounding vessels.

The US government and DOD need to decide if they want a US Navy or just pretend that they have one. History is rife with examples of what these half-hearted, half-baked attempts lead to.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 9:46 a.m. PST

"Is it possible there was some sort of interference or jamming of the shipboard systems?"

It would be an impressive capability that could jam the bridge windows.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 10:33 a.m. PST

I still don't understand how this happened. I see all the details, but so many things had to go wrong, both with machines and people, before this could happen. I guess it's an over-dependence on technology thing plus a general complacence thing, but it's still hard to believe.

Desert Fox11 May 2018 10:53 a.m. PST

I asked about interference or jamming based on what I read from the article…

Lt. Natalie Combs, the tactical action officer, and Lt. Irian Woodley, the surface warfare coordinator, were both on duty in the windowless combat information in the belly of the guided-missile destroyer on early on the morning of June 17 as the ship moved southwest from the coast of Japan less than a day out of port.

"[Based on the interviews] the general consensus was it was a quiet night in CIC with four to five tracks and nothing within 10,000 yards," said Rear Adm. Brian Fort, the lead investigator into the admiralty investigation following the collision, said at Woodley and Combs Article 32 hearing on Wednesday.

Then, shortly after crossing into a busy shipping channel, the merchant ship ACX Crystal popped up on the CIC's commercial ship automatic identification system dangerously close to Fitzgerald.

RobSmith11 May 2018 11:37 a.m. PST

More of the article:

Woodley and Coppock had very different pictures of what was happening around the ship, and it would have taken communication to reconcile the differences. While the bridge had almost 200 contacts on its SPS-73 radar, the CIC's SPS-67 radar had an only a handful due to an overall "poor radar picture," Operations Specialist Second Class Matthew H. Stawecki said at the hearing.

"There was a lot of clutter," he said.

Part of the reason the picture was muddy was the radar had been set to a long-range so-called "long pulse" mode that made contacts close to the ship difficult to see. The setting couldn't be directly adjusted from CIC, and Fort's investigation found there was no effort to contact the ship's electronics technicians to adjust the radar picture.

"They accepted the fact they had clutter, and they didn't do anything about it," Fort said.
"It was the world in which they were living in, and it was the world that was accepted

dvyws911 May 2018 3:11 p.m. PST

So nobody on the bridge was looking out of the Windows? I seem to recall the "International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea" contains the mandatory, non negotiable statement "Every vessel shall, at all times, maintain a lookout appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions". RADAR is an Aid, not a primary lookout (hint: the second letter of the acronym is A for Aid…). This is not a technology issue, except for the US Navy's apparent belief that technology trumps reality, it's a watch keeping officer competency issue. Someone needs to look deep into what exactly OOWs are being taught.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 3:12 p.m. PST

The AIS uses VHF with a range of 10-20 miles. That failed.

AIS has satellite backup. Satellites track ships and this network can be queried from the naval ship. This was turned off, wasn't checked, or wasn't noticed.

If the bridge had nearly 200 contacts I suspect the Crystal was one of them. It's not small. But they didn't notice it amongst the noise despite its size and proximity.

They admit that the bridge and CIC weren't communicating as they should have.

I *think* it's still standard practice to have at least one "Lookout", whose job is specifically to look out the window. Even without electronic night vision devices binoculars with large front apertures will create an image brighter than the unaided eye will see. I assume it was hazy, though this isn't specifically mentioned. In any case, they should have *seen* the Crystal and they didn't.

If the Fitzgerald was under-equipped, under-maintained, or under-staffed then the upper ranks have some responsibility. If the procedures and protocols and standards allowed this to happen then the upper levels and the commander have explaining to do. If the protocols were not followed then the watch standers and commander are at fault. But it seems like things went wrong at every level.

The thing is I thought the procedures, etc, would have included provisions for taking action when you don't get confirmation that you have complete info. EG if the bridge hasn't called you in twenty minutes you call and find out why. Or if the AIS satellite isn't responding you put someone on it. Of if the satellite notices it's lost track of the Crystal it sends someone an error message. Or if there's a huge disparity between the SPS-67 and SPS-73 radars you switch modes or have a conversation about it or double the visual lookouts. Procedures are annoying, but they ensure that even if a person or device fails everything will receive some attention. But I haven't been in that situation so I don't know specifically how it works.

I'm sure the inquiries will sort everything out.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 5:54 p.m. PST

The findings will always need to point to human error as the cause, and to a long sequence of unfortunate coincidences, no matter how frequent these events become.

The alternate explanation is too much for any military and government to risk releasing to their citizens.


Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2018 6:28 p.m. PST

Really? I would have thought they'd rather blame it on a series of equipment failures and maybe a bad procedure, all of which we've ensured will never happen again; as opposed to a handful of twenty somethings weren't paying attention (guaranteed to happen again) resulting in $367 USD million worth of damage to a state of the art $1.8 USD billion warship.

Why is it better to say human error? That ultimately tracks back to the those who set up the process that selected, trained, and oversaw those humans, instead of technological flukes.

dvyws912 May 2018 7:12 a.m. PST

What is it with the American obsession with technology over sanity? It isn't relevant what electronic systems were or weren't doing, or what the CIC knew or thought. Responsibility for safe navigation (which includes avoiding island, continents, and other ships) lies with the bridge crew, specifically the Officer of the Watch. If the situation is complex, or visibility is reduced, then he should summon the Captain to the bridge. "There were lots of other vessels around" is NO excuse or defence. The comments on this thread have obviously mostly come from people with no watch keeping experience at all, but a fixed opinion of what ought, in their August opinions, to happen. Try navigating through some REALLY congested waters, like the Singapore Straits, at fairly high speed, in a 45000 ton ship (with the added complication that you are also watching out for nasty piratical types trying to get onboard from small fast boats), then it starts getting interesting… The standards of both seamanship and competence displayed in this incident are, frankly, appalling, and if this is typical of the US navy then that is frankly, frightening.

Katzbalger12 May 2018 1:55 p.m. PST

"RADAR is an Aid, not a primary lookout (hint: the second letter of the acronym is A for Aid…)."

Uhm…no. RaDAR is RAdio Detection And Ranging. There is no "aid" in that acronym (though there is an adio). :-)


28mm Fanatik12 May 2018 2:46 p.m. PST

An overreliance on technology and equipment is negligence and grounds for court martial. The navy needs to go back to utilizing the proven "Mark I Eyeball" and simple common sense.

dvyws913 May 2018 6:39 a.m. PST

And… You make my point, Katzbalger. "RAdio Detection and Ranging" is the US Navy expansion of the acronym. Surprisingly (to Americans, anyway) that doesn't make it either definitive or universal. I was quoting the definition given to me on my RADAR Observers course years ago. A large part of which covered RADAR Assisted Collisions, which is why electronics are no substitute for looking out of the bloody window!

coopman Supporting Member of TMP13 May 2018 2:26 p.m. PST

Pure laziness and it's absolutely ridiculous!

Lion in the Stars15 May 2018 2:07 p.m. PST

So nobody on the bridge was looking out of the Windows?

At 0130 local time, not much to see outside the bridge windows.

Gotta be outside on the bridge wings to not be blinded by reflections from the glass!

On my subs, we were always rigged for black on the bridge, with the bridge trunk (the access ladder up from the Control Room to the Bridge) rigged for red.

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