August 24, 2017

Possible Systemic Problems on Pre-Collision Destroyers

Anonymous (at 23/8/17 11:57 PM) and Ztev made some good points that I'll paraphrase below.

As the US Navy rapidly sacks admirals and officers of lower rank over the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain collisions the search for systemic (recurring) reasons continues in public and more secretly in the navy.

Pre-dawn (USS Fitzgerald collided at about 1.30am and USS McCain at 5:24amis one of the worst times as there is enough sunlight emerging to make lights less effective but not enough to see other ship structures particularly well. However, watch keepers and captains should know all this. 

Professionals should not be making these sort of mistakes with today's radar, optical night vision aids and other sensors.

USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain were  not involved in special manoeuvres (such as underway replenishment at sea (RAS), sailing close to shore, sailing in formation, or boarding at sea while underway, etc.

Civilian freighters and tankers are big and slow. They tend to be lit up like Christmas trees when running at night in heavy/congested shipping lanes. 

In contrast destroyers are fast (often capable of more than 30 knots) and have some of the most expensive radars and other sensors in existence. A systemic problem may be destroyers might be concentrating so hard on detecting small fast things like fighter jets and anti-ship missiles that they may not be looking for 30,000 ton tankers or freighters.

Might destroyers be turning down their sensors to save on hotel load electricity use to save on gas/fuel use out of misplaced greenhouse gas concerns?

Or are destroyers being run on autopilots, wrongly programmed and/or malfunctioning?

There may be many more systemic weaknesses that have crept in like fewers months of watch keeping training over the last few years for junior USN officers. Also there may have been lower then usual numbers of senior officers on both destroyers' bridges. Senior officers who wanted to be fresh for the delicate manoeuvres involved when arriving in port in the early morning.


Ztev Konrad said...

There has been made public the results of the investigation into another Desron 15 ship Antietam, which grounded near Yokosuka in Tokyo Bay in Jan 31 2017.

Theres lots of detail in the bureaucratic jargon of the USN. But just looking on the first page of the Findings of Fact
8.The Navigator was not qualified as Officer of the Deck as required by reference (d). [Encl(10)]
9. ANTIETAM did not have a qualified navigator on board as required by referenc.e (d)

Anonymous said...

Maybe there is another possible explanation. Might it be that the organisational design of the crew assisted this stuff-up. Sailors in the USN are extremely well trained and highly specialised. The reporting structure might have too many layers and thus increased opportunity for communications errors. Our RAN has a flatter control organisation (less layers) and possibly quicker communications. There is much to be said for having more generalists around.

S O said...

The greenhouse gas thing is nonsense.

Radars and other sensors may have been shut down, but that would likely be due to the tight operations budget (spare parts and maintenance shortage). That's the fault of the top bras, who insist on new and often ineffective hulls at the expense of operating budgets. This hollows out the force, and the top brass then blames politicians and hopes that after elections more hawkish (dumb) politicians will shower them with money again.

Radars, infrared sensors and so on have a mean time between failure - the users can expect the equipment to become inoperative after a hours and hours of operation. So maybe the sensors were already inoperative or maybe they they were shut down to save them for later use.

This does still not explain why the civilian ship collided; there should have been professionals on its bridge, and its navigation radar should be operative. The radar cross section reduction of an Arleigh Burke destroyer isn't so extreme as to make it invisible to navigation radars and even if it was, mounting simple reflectors would solve that safety hazard.

Shit happens at congested waterways, of course.

Peter Coates said...

Supporting Submarine Matters' 24 August 2017 article article regarding search for "systemic" reasons (including officer training difficiencies) is the subsequent of 31 August 2017 which refers to "systemic problems" and officer training. also refers to Automatic Identification System being turned off. This suspicion was referred to in Submarine Matters' June 2017 article at