This inquiring mind wants to know: how the hell does a hulking container ship “sneak up” on a United States destroyer? The USS Fitzgerald got T-boned amidships by the bow of the ACX Crystal when apparently the container ship “appeared out of nowhere” just before dawn on Saturday and rammed the destroyer.
I liken this “accident” to a hippo accidentally running headlong into a jaguar, surprising the supposedly wary and agile killer cat because the jaguar was apparently unaware of the hippo’s presence, didn’t expect to be rammed, and couldn’t get out of the way in time to avoid being T-boned.
Doesn’t that about cover it?
Most of you ex-military folks will recognize the term “FUBAR” and that’s how I classify this episode. For nonmilitary folks, it’s an acronym for “F**ked up beyond all recognition.” “Asleep at the Wheel” is another phrase that seems to apply.
How the hell could a U.S. fighting ship, a guided-missile destroyer, not see this almost 40,000 ton, 730 ft. long behemoth coming directly at her? The ACX Crystal is about four times the size of the destroyer and was loaded with containers (capacity up to 2,858 containers) – hardly a stealthy vessel.
Isn’t one of the primary duties of destroyers to protect our aircraft carriers? The Fitzgerald supposedly has three kinds of radars (not counting fire control) and two of them are identified as surface search radars. Didn’t someone notice a BIG blip coming towards them or were the operators totally immersed in playing video games?
Whatever the reason, this never should have happened.
Obviously, our national heart bleeds for the seven crew members who lost their lives in this incident. They are lost and their families will suffer because of a monumental screw-up by a person or persons unknown (for now). A Court Martial is too good for whoever is to blame for this major black eye for the U.S.Navy and loss of life for seven of our seamen.
I can’t wait to hear the Navy’s explanation of how the hulking, slow-moving container ship caught our fighting ship with her skivvies down.
The ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald on the forward starboard side both above and below the water line, crushing the captain’s cabin and damaging two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room. The collision occurred about 56 nautical miles (104 kilometers; 64 miles) southwest of her homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, some 25 minutes after ACX Crystal had made an unexplained U-turn.
The ACX Crystal is a Container ship. It displaces 29,060 tons (almost 40,000 tons loaded) and is 730 feet long. Her capacity is 2,858 containers. She is operated with a crew of 20.
The Crystal’s top speed is 25.3 knots (46.9 km/h, 29.1 mph), service speed is 23.0 knots (42.6 km/h, 26.5 mph). ACX is 9 years-old and was built in South Korea. Though Philippines-flagged, it’s said to be operated by Japanese NYK. Its home port is Manila.
The USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that cost $1.5 billion to build. She was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine in 1993. Though actual speed is classified, her top speed is estimated to be in excess of 30 knots (56 km/h, 34.8 mph)). The Fitzgerald (DDG 62) is roughly 8,230 tons and 505 feet long. She is now homeported at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan and is part of Destroyer Squadron 15. She has a crew of 33 commissioned officers, 38 chief petty officers, and 210 enlisted personnel.
On 1 June 2017, Fitzgerald, operating out of Yokosuka Naval Base, was noted for participating in routine exercises with Japan that were described in the media as a show of force to North Korea. She sailed with the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, the cruiser Shiloh and the destroyers Barry, McCampbell, and Mustin, joined by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, cruiser Lake Champlain and destroyers Wayne E. Meyer and Michael Murphy, and Japanese ships Hyūga and Ashigara.
The Navy is being tight-lipped about exactly what happened and why. In time, we’ll learn what they want us to know. In the meantime, all we can do is wonder how one of our fighting ships, a destroyer got rammed by a container ship. It appears that it could hardly be called an accident. Could it be a terrorist attack or could North Korea be probing for weaknesses in our battle group? Inquiring minds (at least this one) want to know.