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Three Years After Fatal Collision, USS Fitzgerald Returns to Service

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Image courtesy USN

By The Maritime Executive 06-14-2020 06:30:32

On Saturday - almost three years to the day after she collided with a container ship off Yokosuka - the destroyer USS Fitzgerald departed Ingalls Shipbuilding to return to her homeport in San Diego.

The departure ends a two-year effort to restore and modernize the ship. In the collision with the boxship ACX CrystalFitzgerald suffered a 12-foot by 17-foot hole below the waterline and multiple flooded compartments, and seven of her sailors lost their lives. The restoration program touched every aspect of her equipment, including hull, machinery, electrical, combat systems, comms, intelligence and command and control systems. The repairs included refurbishment or replacement of equipment, including the radar and electronic warfare suite.

“Today the ‘Fighting Fitz’ is returning to the Pacific Fleet as one of our nation’s most capable warfighting platforms, marking a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness,” said Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, director of Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization. “The Fitzgerald sailors, our Navy project teams and the men and women of Ingalls put forth a tremendous effort to restore the ship to fighting shape and did so on schedule.

In preparation for the sail-away, the Fitzgerald crew completed a training and certification process- including a navigation assessment - to ensure they were ready to operate the ship. (Human error, lack of procedural compliance and loss of situational awareness were among the root causes of the 2017 collision.) Prior to departing Pascagoula, Fitzgerald’s crew underwent a long quarantine period to minimize the risk of bringing COVID-19 on board. 

“Completing repairs and upgrades to Fitzgerald was only possible because of the outstanding teamwork between the government and industry teams over the last two and a half years.  My thanks go out to everyone involved in making sure the ship is ready, and I’m especially proud of my crew's hard work ensuring we are trained and prepared to take our ship back to sea,” said Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, commanding officer of Fitzgerald.