On August 21st, the USS John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC off the coast of Singapore. The larger civilian ship struck the McCain on the port side, tearing a large hole in the hull of the warship, and dooming 10 sailors who were trapped inside the flooded compartments.
The crash between the McCain and Alnic MC was a tragedy in its own right, but it was, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. In fact, the collision that occurred that August morning was the second in less than two months, as the USS Fitzgerald, the same class of missile cruiser, also collided with a merchant vessel in June.
These incidents, as well as another collision between a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Lake Champlain, and a fishing boat, and the running aground of the Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Antietam in February, compounded with training and personnel issues throughout the fleet, resulted in the 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, being relieved from duty. A number of other Navy officials have been relieved or reprimanded since, with Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer heading up a “comprehensive review” of the issues facing the Navy in the world’s largest ocean.
While the Navy continues to work to identify the causes of these incidents, another challenge remains: getting these damaged vessels back into good working order, as tensions throughout the Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea and around the Korean peninsula, have not waned in the time since they were taken out of commission.