Navy ship collisions thread from 2017

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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"were able to safely operate after their sterns touched around"

I saw this in Requiem for a Dream...
 

Gunz

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If you look at ship histories running aground and fender benders are quite common. The skipper is not always relieved.
 

Ooh-Rah

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This is so frustrating to read, yet the author is a fantastic writer. The story reads almost like a work of fiction, sadly that is not the case.

Gave me a much better understanding of what happened.

Investigation finds Navy leaders ignored warnings for years before one of the deadliest crashes in decades — ProPublica

These paragraphs baffles me:

The review revealed neglect by Navy leadership, serious mistakes by officers — and extraordinary acts of valor and endurance by the crew.

The Fitzgerald’s captain selected an untested team to steer the ship at night. He ordered the crew to speed through shipping lanes filled with cargo ships and fishing vessels to free up time to train his sailors the next day. At the time of the collision, he was asleep in his cabin.

The 26-year-old officer of the deck, who was in charge of the destroyer at the time of the crash, had navigated the route only once before in daylight. In a panic, she ordered the Fitzgerald to turn directly into the path of the Crystal.



This paragraph educated me:

The speed left Coppock nervous. Steering a massive warship through the ocean at night is an exercise in managed chaos. Imagine driving down a four-lane highway without guardrails, traffic stripes or dividers. It is pitch dark. Other vehicles, ranging in size from mopeds to tractor-trailers, zip around you. None of them have brakes that can stop quickly.


And this one terrified me.

Felderman was going to be submerged in seconds. He took a breath and went under. A battle lantern lit the quarters underwater, but the light was poor, and there was no clear path to escape. And now he was desperate for air.

He thrust himself upward. He burst out into a small pocket of air between two pipes. He found only inches of space between the water level and the top of the compartment.

He smashed his head into the opening so hard that he bruised his face, split his skin and began bleeding.

“I was raving like a wild animal for air, pushing my face as high as I could,” he remembered.

He sucked in what air he could and went under again.


Lt. j.g. Stephany Breau (the ship’s damage control assistant) gave me hope. It is difficult to believe the ship would not have gone under without her actions.

She picked up a microphone for the shipwide intercom: “I assume all duties and responsibilities for damage control onboard USS Fitzgerald,” she announced. She sounded the alarm for general quarters, directing sailors to pre-assigned stations designated for emergencies.

She did algebra, scribbling calculations on the back of a notebook. She had to figure out the weight of water in the ship in case she needed to counterflood the Fitzgerald, a technique to deliberately flood other ship compartments to counterbalance areas already filled with water.

One stubborn area remained: Water continued to flood into a lower deck compartment carrying equipment for the Tomahawk missile system. None of the pumps were powerful enough to carry the water out.

Breau’s last trick was a bucket brigade. For 10 hours, about two dozen sailors at a time snaked in a long, tight line from below ship up three ladder wells to the main deck. Sailors rotated in and out, relieving comrades fatigued by the nonstop passing of 10-pound buckets of water.




And this one caused me to roll my eyes....
The Navy explicitly ruled out problems with any of the ship’s radars.
 

Ooh-Rah

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As an electronics guy who works with a former Navy ET (Tico-class boat, NEC's for radar and IFF), why the skepticism?
Fair question, and my only electronics qualifications is putting together those really cool box-sets that Radio Shack used to sell.

My skepticism comes from my natural willingness to question anything the Government tells me to be fact; especially the military. In this case it is also (primarily) based off the information within the story. The article appears to be incredibly well researched and substantiated by multiple witness accounts.

____

There were a number of callouts made by the authors that caused me pause:

- Its radars were in questionable shape, and it’s not clear the crew knew how to operate them.

- The ship’s primary navigation system was run by 17-year-old software.

- The radar was supposed to automatically follow the hooked tracks on the screen. But Fitzgerald sailors had been unable to make the feature work.

- To follow the hooked tracks, Stawecki had to repeatedly press a button that refreshed the display on his screen. The workaround made Stawecki look like he was sending a frantic message in Morse code. He would hit the button more than 1,000 times in an hour to keep the images of nearby ships updated.

- Just before the collision, Stawecki’s screen showed five ships around the Fitzgerald, none of them close by, none of them threats and none of them requiring reporting to the captain.

- On the Fitzgerald, technicians had covered a button to tune the radar with masking tape because it was broken. From his post, Stawecki could not tune the radar. So the only other thing he saw were false returns —

- A third radar, used for warfare, was slow to acquire targets, but technicians had installed a temporary fix that became permanent. “Problem known since 2012. Declared hopeless,” read notes attached to the repair report.

- Technicians were constantly fixing the SPS-73, the other main navigational radar on the Fitzgerald. Sometimes, the radar would show the destroyer heading the wrong way.
____


In the spirit of not burying that parts that don't fit my narrative, I acknowledge that 'user error' may have been partially to blame, but....user error caused by lack of training, overwork, and lacking maintenance that caused Sailors to conjure up band aid fixes. (the sailor who had to hit the button 1000 times per minute really stuck with me).

All that said, it is incredibly difficult for me buy the Navy's statement of: The Navy explicitly ruled out problems with any of the ship’s radars.
 

Devildoc

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This is so frustrating to read, yet the author is a fantastic writer. The story reads almost like a work of fiction, sadly that is not the case.

Gave me a much better understanding of what happened.

Investigation finds Navy leaders ignored warnings for years before one of the deadliest crashes in decades — ProPublica

These paragraphs baffles me:

The review revealed neglect by Navy leadership, serious mistakes by officers — and extraordinary acts of valor and endurance by the crew.

The Fitzgerald’s captain selected an untested team to steer the ship at night. He ordered the crew to speed through shipping lanes filled with cargo ships and fishing vessels to free up time to train his sailors the next day. At the time of the collision, he was asleep in his cabin.

The 26-year-old officer of the deck, who was in charge of the destroyer at the time of the crash, had navigated the route only once before in daylight. In a panic, she ordered the Fitzgerald to turn directly into the path of the Crystal.



This paragraph educated me:

The speed left Coppock nervous. Steering a massive warship through the ocean at night is an exercise in managed chaos. Imagine driving down a four-lane highway without guardrails, traffic stripes or dividers. It is pitch dark. Other vehicles, ranging in size from mopeds to tractor-trailers, zip around you. None of them have brakes that can stop quickly.


And this one terrified me.

Felderman was going to be submerged in seconds. He took a breath and went under. A battle lantern lit the quarters underwater, but the light was poor, and there was no clear path to escape. And now he was desperate for air.

He thrust himself upward. He burst out into a small pocket of air between two pipes. He found only inches of space between the water level and the top of the compartment.

He smashed his head into the opening so hard that he bruised his face, split his skin and began bleeding.

“I was raving like a wild animal for air, pushing my face as high as I could,” he remembered.

He sucked in what air he could and went under again.


Lt. j.g. Stephany Breau (the ship’s damage control assistant) gave me hope. It is difficult to believe the ship would not have gone under without her actions.

She picked up a microphone for the shipwide intercom: “I assume all duties and responsibilities for damage control onboard USS Fitzgerald,” she announced. She sounded the alarm for general quarters, directing sailors to pre-assigned stations designated for emergencies.

She did algebra, scribbling calculations on the back of a notebook. She had to figure out the weight of water in the ship in case she needed to counterflood the Fitzgerald, a technique to deliberately flood other ship compartments to counterbalance areas already filled with water.

One stubborn area remained: Water continued to flood into a lower deck compartment carrying equipment for the Tomahawk missile system. None of the pumps were powerful enough to carry the water out.

Breau’s last trick was a bucket brigade. For 10 hours, about two dozen sailors at a time snaked in a long, tight line from below ship up three ladder wells to the main deck. Sailors rotated in and out, relieving comrades fatigued by the nonstop passing of 10-pound buckets of water.




And this one caused me to roll my eyes....
The Navy explicitly ruled out problems with any of the ship’s radars.

If it was up to me to have to algebra or you all would go down with the ship, you all would go down with the ship.

As for radar, although I was never 'haze gray and underway' like a 'real' sailor, I nosed around on my floats, and when I asked why with the modern tech that they still had lookouts everywhere all the time, they said that radar often gives an incomplete picture, is not fool-proof, and can show things that aren't there. Since I put 'radar' in the same category as 'voodoo,' I took the comments at face value.
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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Yeah, I get it now. That boat had some major issues for all of that to happen. My bud had the Skipper make a request to have the radar picture piped into the CO's cabin...and these guys couldn't make their stuff run? The causes behind this are probably numerous, but to think a combat ship's eyes and ears were this faulty? They make AWACS look like Death Star technology...
 

Devildoc

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Touchscreens, they scare the shit out of me. I think of all of the WW2 movies I’ve seen and the damage those ships sustained, yet the crew was still able to keep the ship functional.

I see videos of today’s navy, with huge monitor screens, touch screens, everything so electronic it looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Maybe am probably oversimplifying things, but my perception is that in 2020 it is a whole lot easier to disable a naval vessel of today, than it was in 1944. That just does not make any sense to me.

Nothing would make me happier than having somebody respond telling me to read more, post less, and here’s why you’re wrong… But I don’t think that I am.

To add -

I’m pretty certain we have a thread on this already, I’ll find it and move those posts there.

Is it easier to disable a ship today? Yes and no. The threats are different. But because today's threats are more sophisticated, ships are more survivable. The tech is both the strength as well as the Achilles heel.
 
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