August 22, 2017

USS McCain Collision: Equipment and Human Error Suspected

I think commanders senior to USS Fitzgerald's and USS McCain's captains may be retired or moved following the collisions. It may be significant that both destroyers belong to Destroyer Squadron 15 (also here) at US Naval Base Yokosuka, Japan.  

The head (known as "
Commodore") of Destroyer Squadron 15 is CURRENTLY Captain Jeffrey A. Bennett.

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With the August 21, 2017 collision between USS John S. McCain and Alnic MC there's more tragedy for US sailors and embarrassment for the US Navy. This being the second US destroyer collision in just over 2 months (since the June 17, 2017 USS Fitzgerald collision).

Both the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald collisions

-  took place in highly congested waters (packed with ships).

-  involved 30.000+ ton civilian ships generally considered too large to take evasive action

-  the onus to avoid collision may be on the more manoeuvrable smaller destroyers, which also have more lookouts and sensors (eg. radar and satellite sensors (including AIS)).

The US Navy has already blamed "a steering failure" for a collision. But steering problems given backup systems involve a "combination of mechanical [equipment] and procedural [human] failure"

 Under its own power, USS McCain has reached Changi Naval Base in Singapore where US investigators will look for the "missing" sailors.

The location of the destroyer USS John S. McCain collision off Malaysia and Singapore and actual damage to destroyer (inset)(Map and inset courtesy The Sun)
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Pete

11 comments:

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,
I hate lame excuses.
There is a reason why bigger warships have at least 2 propellers: steerable without rudder!
An oil tanker is not the agile boat to ram a destroyer on purpose. It's more in the class of a Spanish light house.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Ztev Konrad said...

From the background we now know about the last collision, which also happened in the pre dawn hours, the senior officers and maybe crew were in their cabins sleeping.
Detailed report of damage and recovery after collision here
http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/13591/navy-releases-harrowing-report-on-fitzgerald-collision-begins-punishing-sailors
Im presuming the lack of senior leadership on the bridge, who wanted to be fresh for the arrival in port in early morning, can be seen as contributing to both incidents.

This story here, decribes how some time back the Surface Warfare Officer School closed their Division Officers course training and just gave them a pack CDs for self study while they undertook their duties on board their first ships. They changed back to some shore training but perhaps the rigour has been lost for junior officers training
http://cimsec.org/circles-surface-warfare-training/24050

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

The head of the US military's Pacific Command said on Aug/22 pause in US Navy operations will not affect US' ability to defend allies [1]. But, the head of JMSDF admitted on Aug/22 the accident of US Agis destroyer would affect missile defense.

Cause elucidation of Fitzgerald collision might be insuffcient and result in consecutive collisions. This suggests defects of management because cause elucidation is one of most important functions of management.

[1] http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/pause-in-us-navy-operations-will-not-affect-us-ability-to-defend-south-korea-adm

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev Konrad

Thanks for those 2 references and your comments.

The search for systemic/common causes between the Fitzgerald and McCain collissions will certainly go deeper than current senior Admirals' arse-covering instant judgements that "mechanical and procedural failure" were the USS McCain causes.

Interesting (from
http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/13591/navy-releases-harrowing-report-on-fitzgerald-collision-begins-punishing-sailors )
how many on Fitzgerald stayed asleep post collision. I'm wondering if alcohol, Legal or illegal drugs played a part? Or longer term exhaustion below decks and on the bridge.

http://cimsec.org/circles-surface-warfare-training/24050 on changes and reversals in watch keeping doctrine is particularly good. It might identify training factors as a contributer.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

These types of ships are big & slow & tend to be lit up like Christmas trees when running at night in heavy shipping lanes. Destroyers however are often capable of more than 30 knts & some have of the most expensive radars & other sensors in existance. Are they concentrating so hard on detecting small fast things like fighter jets & anti-ship missiles that the can't detect a 30,000 tanker or freighter anymore? Or they trying to be green & saving power by turning them off. Or perhaps they were running on auto pilot & nobody noticed it played up or they had entered the wrong settings?

Pre-dawn is one of the worst times as there is enough sunlight to make lights less effective & not enough to see particularly well otherwise. However, everyone knows this. Proffessionals should not be making these sort of mistakes with todays gear especially when not tring to do anything special (such as RAS, sailing close to shore, sailng in formation, boarding at sea while underway etc).

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 23/8/17 7:35 AM]

Thanks for http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/pause-in-us-navy-operations-will-not-affect-us-ability-to-defend-south-korea-adm Yes identifying the causes of these 2 major (USS Fitzgerald and McCain) collissions needs to be done thoroughly.

I think commanders senior to the ship's captains may be retired or moved. It may be significant that USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain BOTH belong to Destroyer Squadron 15 at US Naval Base Yokosuka https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroyer_Squadron_15 and see http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/cds-15/Pages/Default.aspx#.WZ2MRj4jHb1

The head of Destroyer Squadron 15 is CURRENTLY Captain Jeffrey A. Bennett
(Commodore) http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/cds-15/Pages/Bio1.aspx#.WZ2L7T4jHb0

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Possibility of cyber terrorism is emerging, where GPS of warship was altered by hacker, because four collisions occured.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/us-warship-collisions-raise-cyberattack-fears
(US warship collisions raise cyber attack fears)

Regards


Ztev Konrad said...

Regarding any alchohol effects on crew, it used to be an almost total ban while at sea( since 1914, implemented by a teetotal Secretary of the Navy) but was modified in 1980 to 2 beers after 45 days at sea.
https://news.usni.org/2014/07/01/hundred-years-dry-u-s-navys-end-alcohol-sea

It would seem that alcohol usage on board would have not have been permitted for these destroyers .
USS John McCain last port visit was Sasebo , Japan Aug 1, collision was Aug 21
http://www.uscarriers.net/ddg56history.htm

USS Fitzgerald was at Yokosuka on June 7, collision was June 17
http://www.uscarriers.net/ddg62history.htm

Anonymous said...

There were 4 collisions in the US 7th fleet, all in 2017. Coincidences? probably not. As naval tradition requires, heads are starting to roll.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

And lo and behold.

The head of the whole 7th Fleet, mainly based in Yokosuka, and covering Destroyer Squadron 15 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroyer_Squadron_15

is removed from command.

https://news.usni.org/2017/08/22/u-s-7th-fleet-head-vice-adm-joseph-aucoin-removed-command-early-following-mccain-collision

Peter Coates said...

As anticipated by Submarine Matters on August 22 2017: the removal of Captain Jeffrey Bennett, Commander of Destroyer Squadron 15, US Base Yokosuka, Japan (in charge of both USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain) has now occurred on September 18, 2017 - see http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=102464

Pete