Navy relieving commanders after serious uptick in safety issues

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Navy relieving commanders after serious uptick in safety issues

From Stripes you get the basics:

The Navy relieved two more commanders in 7th Fleet on Monday amid fallout from two deadly collisions involving the destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain.

Task Force 70 commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Destroyer Squadron 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett were both relieved of command by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command,” the Navy announced in a Monday statement.

As both the CTF 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5 commander, Williams had tactical control of 7th Fleet’s cruisers and destroyers, as well as Carrier Air Wing 5 and the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Williams assumed command of CTF 70 in July 2016 from Rear Adm. John Alexander, who has since been promoted to vice admiral and took command of the U.S. 3rd Fleet on Friday.

The McCain and Fitzgerald accidents weren’t the only ones, here’s a bunch of videos on the others:

USS McCain:

USS Fitzgerald:  

USS Lake Champaign:  

USS Antietam:  

Even as far back as 2009 (and before that to the  USS Cole incident in 2000) one of the biggest military concerns was rogue attacks, usually in the form of “swarms” where multiple boats attack simultaneously:

Small ships can only damage a well-equipped Navy if many of them attack at once. A number of explosive-laden suicide craft in a tight waterway such as the Strait of Hormuz could be remarkably effective. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Navy is very interested in improving its ability to track multiple targets. Since aircraft are among a ship's first, best defenses, the [Office of Naval Research] is focusing research on giving helicopters and airplanes the optics to track and fire on numerous targets at once. Instead of multiple laser nodes tracking each target, the Navy is pushing the idea of quickly flickering one laser beam to designate targets for precision weapons systems. An ideal system would share this targeting information with onboard commanders so that those in charge have a better idea of what to shoot and when. The system would be used against ground targets as well.

There is no evidence on any of the aforementioned ships that they were the victims of a swarm attack, or any attack, they just apparently didn’t see the ships coming.  That’s obviously a HUGE concern, and it paints the Navy in a bad light.  While holding the commanders responsible seems reasonable under the circumstances, I hope the Navy does something more to address the deficiencies of a peacetime problem of simply not seeing other ships.  At wartime one would assume that everyone is continually on the lookout for any ship that might cause problems.  Just as obviously, something fell through the cracks here.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.