Tag Archives: USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62)

The 2nd Squadron of Evolution

The “White Squadron” or “Squadron of Evolution” underway off the U.S. East Coast, circa 1891. Ships are, (I-R): YORKTOWN (PG-1), BOSTON (1887) CONCORD (PG-3), ATLANTA (1887), NEWARK (C-1) CHICAGO (1889) NH 47026

In 1883, after years of neglect and the “Great Repairs” scheme of creating new ships by recycling old equipment from derelict Civil War-era vessels into new hulls with the same name old name, Congress authorized the construction of the country’s first modern steel warships: the protected cruisers Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and the gunboat Dolphin.

Known as the “ABCD Ships,” these four warships were soon augmented by others, the gunboats Bennington and Concord, bridging the gap between the old wood-and-sail navy (augmented by iron) and one of steam and steel (which still had some auxiliary sail rigs), to form the Squadron of Evolution between 1889 and 1891 to figure out how to work together.

It was the mark of technological advancement that left the ships familiar to centuries of sailors and mariners in the past and moved into what we know today. Just eight years later, the all-steel Navy proved itself handily in the Spanish American War.

Speaking of which, if you aren’t paying attention to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21), you are missing today’s Squadron of Evolution, whose motto is:

“Haze gray and unmanned.”

As noted by Third Fleet, “UxS IBP 21 integrates manned and unmanned capabilities into the operational scenarios to generate warfighting advantages.”

“The integration between unmanned and manned capabilities shown today provides an operations approach to strengthening our manned-unmanned teaming,” said Rear Adm. James A. Aiken, UxS IBP 21 tactical commander. “Putting our newest technology into our Sailors’ hands directly enhances our fleet.”

210421-N-FC670-1009 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) leads a formation including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Pinckney (91), and USS Kidd (DDG 100), and the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

You are seeing the Sea Hawk and Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessels (USVs), equipped with what seems like VDS, working in tandem. It is not hard to imagine squadrons of these cleared to conduct autonomous ASW inside “kill boxes” where no Allied subs are hiding, with man-in-the-loop authorization before weapons release of course.

210421-N-FC670-1034 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) A Sea Hawk medium displacement unmanned surface vessel sails by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

 

210421-N-PH222-2863 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) Sea Hunter, an unmanned ocean-going vessel, participates in an Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Breeden)

Speaking of which, the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) seems to be interacting with Sea Hawk/Hunter, as witnessed by a large SATCOM array on her stern.

For protection, long-range unmanned surface vessels (LRUSV) have been seen operating alongside surface assets as stand-off watchdogs for the fleet, ironically a task that destroyers were originally created for: to “destroy” torpedo boat swarms before they could reach the precious battleships.

210424-N-NO824-1007 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 24, 2021) A long-range unmanned surface vessel (LRUSV) operates alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) in the Pacific Ocean during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 24. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Forman)

Speaking of which, how about the MANTAS T38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vehicle?

210421-N-GP724-1001 SAN DIEGO (April 21, 2021) System technicians perform a safety test on a MANTAS T38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vehicle (USV) in San Diego Bay for an operational test run during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

Then there is the super low-profile SeaLandAire ADARO X-class unmanned surface vehicle, a sort of pocket USV that can be deployed in 5-minutes and incorporates a modular payload bay for snooping around coastlines in a recon role or augmenting ship protection in a counter frogman/sapper capacity. Alternatively, they could be filled with enough of an EW beacon to be used as a seductive decoy countermeasure, adding to the layered defense to counter anti-ship missiles.

Acting as a mothership for dozens of such craft could be the silver lining for the LCS program. 

210422-N-GP724-1364 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system interacts with the Navy’s newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Oakland (LCS 24) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

210422-N-GP724-1202 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system operates during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

210422-N-NO824-1003 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system participates in U.S. Pacific Fleet’s UxS IBP 21, April 22. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Nicholas Ransom)

To the air

Navalised Predator UAVs, MQ-9 SeaGuardians, keeping watch in the air, equipped for surface search and surveillance but with pylons available for ordnance if needed. It can also drop sonobuoys. 

210421-N-FC670-2103 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) An MQ-9 SeaGuardian unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft system flies over Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

You want a squadron of persistent fixed-winged ASW/ASuW aircraft to fill the void left with the P-8 Poseidon replacing the P-3 Orion at a 1:3 ratio and the dry socket leftover from when the S-3 Viking left the fleet? Add a squadron of these to a secondhand container ship or tanker converted to a UAV flattop and hit the repeat button as many times as you need to if the experiment works. Bring back retired naval aviators to fly them via secure datalink and call the ball. 

Add to this other UAVs with a smaller footprint. One small enough to be used from far-flung island outposts akin to how the U.S. and Japanese sprinkled seaplane bases around the Western Pacific in WWII, only much easier and with far less infrastructure. 

210422-N-UN492-1058 POINT MUGU, Calif. (April 22, 2021) A Vanilla ultra-endurance land-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) undergoes operational pre-flight checks during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. (U.S. Navy photo by Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Michael Schutt)

Talk about a glimpse into the future. 

Fighting Fitz and Big John are back

Last week, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sailed out of Ingalls after a three-year saga of being put back together following the collision with container ship MV ACX Crystal on 17 June 2017. She is now headed back to her regular homeport of San Diego for a return to service with the Pacific Fleet.

She dedicated a Remembrance Passageway to the seven Bluejackets lost in the incident and flies a special flag in their honor, recalling the 1813 dying command of CPT James Lawrence aboard USS Chesapeake.

190617-N-BR740-1106 PASCAGOULA, Miss. (June 17, 2019) The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) unveiled a commemorative flag on June 17, 2019, during a remembrance ceremony honoring the Sailors who died in a collision in the Sea of Japan on June 17, 2017. The flag, designed by current crew members, is blue with “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” emblazoned above the names of the seven Sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Samantha Crane/Released)

Similarly, the crew of the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), Fitz’s sistership, successfully completed basic phase certification, June 2, following months of training and preparation to return the ship and its crew to operational status. As you will recall, McCain has been sidelined for repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last three years, following a collision in August 2017.

East Bank buzzing again

As a kid, I grew up in South Pascagoula, in a house, appropriately enough, on Pascagoula Street just south of Ingalls Avenue. This was in the 1970s and 80s, at a time when Ingalls Shipbuilding (then part of Litton) was cranking out the occasional submarine, squadrons of Spruance/Kidd-class destroyers, Ticonderoga-class frigates, early Burke-class DDGs, and Tarawa-class LHAs. Also passing through at about the same time was the old mothballed battlewagons Iowa and Wisconsin.

Six Spruance class destroyers fitting out, circa May 1975. Ships are, from left Paul F. Foster (DD-964); Spruance (DD-963), then running trials; Arthur W. Radford (DD-968); Elliot (DD-967); Hewitt (DD-966) and Kinkaid (DD-965). Ingalls East Bank, Pascagoula

A lot of this work was done on the yard’s historic East Bank, which was only a few blocks from my home, and at about 3:30 p.m. it was a mad dash akin to the start of the Indianapolis 500 as the workers rushed to get out of there. Sometimes, you could even see the pace car.

The last large ship I remember being at the East Bank was the 1960s-vintage USS Inchon (LPH-12/MCS-12) when she came back from the Gulf War in 1991 to get patched up after catching an Iraqi mine with her hull. After that, things slowed down as more work shifted to the West Bank which is several miles outside of town in the swamps of Mary Walker Bayou near Gautier.

There I would venture out to work when I was in my 20s, tasked with helping to bend raw steel to form warships as many Goula boys had done before. To be sure, today there are several Burkes and a couple LHDs on active duty with my initials– alongside many others– burned into out of the way inner bottom bulkheads.

Over the past couple of decades the East Bank became deserted although not completely abandoned by now-Huntington Ingalls Industries, and the old graving docks, deep enough to float a battleship, were great places to catch flounder and redfish.

Now, it seems the historic old yard is being dusted off and put back to work with the facility being repurposed to perform maintenance on DDGs. Of note, the damaged USS FitzGerald (DDG-62) has been at Ingalls for some time getting a rebuild after her collision off Japan.

Fitz Looking Better

The past week saw a battered old greyhound sortie out to find her sealegs again. The early Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sailed from Pascagoula to conduct “comprehensive at-sea testing, marking a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness.”

I caught her last weekend, just after she returned to the West Bank at Ingalls. To put into perspective how much her class has changed since she was laid down in 1993, Fitz is moored just downriver to PCU DDG-119. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Damaged during a collision in 2017 that claimed the lives of seven of her Sailors, Fitzgerald has spent the past two years on a long march back to the fleet and is almost there.

“Since we launched the ship this past April our efforts have focused on restoring ship systems, conducting pier-side tests and readying the ship for sea,” said RADM Tom Anderson, NAVSEA’s director of surface ship maintenance and modernization and commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center in a statement. “The government and industry team has been working hand-in-hand on this exceptionally complex effort, with a common purpose of returning Fitzgerald to sea and ultimately back to the fleet.”

Fightin’ Fitz

While in Pascagoula a few days ago, I spotted this familiar old girl in the shallow waters of the muddy Pascagoula River along Ingalls SB’s West Bank.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) under repair Ingalls West Bank Pascagoula River July 2019 eger (2)

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Note her Union Jack on the bow, which was only recently raised a couple of weeks ago.

About that…

Commissioned at Bath in 1995, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) carries the nickname of “Fightin’ Fitz” and recently made international news when, on 17 June 2017, the destroyer was involved in a collision some 50 miles off Japan with the 40,000-ton Philippine-flagged container ship MV ACX Crystal. The encounter damaged the ship, killed seven of her crew were killed– lost in a flooded berthing compartment in the predawn collision– and left a number seriously injured. With her hull open to the sea, swift and effective damage control by her crew saved the vessel.

Fitz has since been in Pascagoula for the past 18 months undergoing a $400~ million repair/refit.

Three weeks ago, at morning colors on June 17, 2019, her crew unveiled a commemorative flag honoring the Sailors who died in a collision in the Sea of Japan two years ago. In addition, the National Ensign and Union Jack were raised on the ship for the first time since November 2017.

From the Navy’s presser:

Designed by current crewmembers, the flag memorializes their seven fallen shipmates. The flag is blue with “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” emblazoned above the names of the seven Sailors. The motto is a common Navy phrase, but all Fitzgerald Sailors embodied that spirit on June 17, 2017, when they fought significant flooding and structural damage following the collision.

190617-N-BR740-1106 PASCAGOULA, Miss. (June 17, 2019) The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) unveiled a commemorative flag June 17, 2019, during a remembrance ceremony honoring the Sailors who died in a collision in the Sea of Japan on June 17, 2017. The flag, designed by current crew members, is blue with “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” emblazoned above the names of the seven Sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Samantha Crane/Released)

“I am proud of this flag and proud of our shipmates who helped design it, as it is a product of respect and professionalism that symbolizes their great service and sacrifice,” said CDR Garrett Miller, Fitzgerald commanding officer, who unfurled the commemorative flag for the first time.

Fitzgerald’s crew designed this flag from scratch as a way to embody those shipmates we lost,” said Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald’s executive officer. “It will be flown every year on 17 June to honor them and to never forget their sacrifice. The current crew continues to live out that motto while bringing the ship back to the Fleet.”

Vale, Fitzgerald

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, answers questions about the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during a press conference at Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

The list of the fallen are from the Gulf Coast, the East Coast, the West Coast and the Midwest. Going on their names, they encompass numerous ethic backgrounds, all part of the national melting pot. One is a teenager, a striker. Another is a 37-year old PO1, likely well into his second decade of service. There are combat rates, CIC personnel, clerks.

All are American, and volunteered for the service, showing the persistent dangers of sea duty even in today’s environment–  reportedly stricken in a horrific collision and resulting flooding of their berthing spaces while in the slumber of the predawn hours.

The U.S. Navy Identifies 7 Deceased Fitzgerald Sailors

The remains of seven Sailors previously reported missing were located in flooded berthing compartments, after divers gained access to the spaces, June 18, that were damaged when USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal.

The deceased are:

– Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia

– Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California

– Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut

– Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas

– Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California

– Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

– Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio