The U.S. Navy on Wednesday relieved the Commander of the US 7th Fleet based out of Japan for “loss of confidence” in his ability to command after the service has suffered four catastrophic accidents at sea. The last two have cost multiple sailors their lives.
Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet has relieved Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan from his duties at the 7th Fleet’s Yokosuka base. Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer, the Pacific Fleet’s deputy commander, will immediately assume command. Sawyer had been scheduled to assume the post on Sept. 7.
The incidents include the deadly collision Monday of the destroyer USS John S. McCain with a much heavier oil tanker off Singapore, and a June 17 accident in which the destroyer USS Fitzgerald was ripped open by a larger Philippine container ship.
Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald disaster, and at least some of the 10 sailors reported missing from the McCain are dead, Swift said Tuesday. The search for their remains continues inside the stricken ship as well as in a widening area of the Straits of Malacca where the collision took place.
Aucoin has been the 7th Fleet commander since September 2015, and was previously the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems. His removal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the highest profile in the Navy since the disasters occurred.
The Navy has an on-going “deliberate reset” for all ships that will focus on navigation, maintaining mechanical systems, and manning the ship’s bridge appropriately. It was ordered by Admiral John Richards, Chief of Naval Operations and will be overseen by Swift in the 7th Fleet.
The 7th Fleet is responsible for an area that covers 36 maritime countries and 48 million square miles in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The fleet has anywhere from 50 to 70 ships assigned to it, including about a dozen at sea at any time.
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Photo courtesy DOD
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