US Navy relieves 7th Fleet commander after latest collision

The US Navy has relieved the 7th Fleet commander of his duties after the latest in a spate of US warship collisions in the Pacific.

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, on Tuesday removed three-star admiral Joseph Aucoin from his position after the USS John S. McCain collided with oil tanker Alnic MC on Monday.

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who has already been nominated and confirmed for the position and promotion to Vice Adm., will assume command immediately.

Ten sailors were reported missing following the collision while five were injured. US Pacific Fleet commander, admiral Scott H. Swift on Tuesday announced that remains of some of ten sailors had been found in the destroyer’s flooded compartments while the search for others was ongoing.

Less than two months ago, seven US sailors lost their lives in another collision between a US destroyer and a merchant ship. USS Fitzgerald collided with Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan On July 17 and will have to be transported back to the US for repairs.

The two fatal incidents were the third and fourth incident involving US Navy ships. On January 31, cruiser USS Antietam, forward-deployed to the 7th Fleet, ran aground in waters near Yokosuka, while USS Champlain collided with a fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan on May 9.

In response to the incidents, chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson directed the navy to take an “operational pause” in all of its fleets around the world, to allow fleet commanders to assess and review with their commands the fundamental practice to safe and effective operations.

In addition to the operational pause, Richardson said he directed a more comprehensive review to find the contributing factors and root causes of the incidents.

That review will look at the processes the Navy uses to train and certify the forward deployed forces in Japan. Another area for examination, as Richardson outlined, is how the Navy trains and certifies its surface warfare community, including tactical and navigational proficiency.