USS Fitzgerald - Why So Quiet After Impact


Indeed, that very well could be, shipmate. Really, the watchstanders on the destroyer should have realized how close they were to the civilian ship and probably should have stayed farther away. They would have seen the merchant ship on passive ESM and heard her on sonar, and if they were using active radar (as opposed to listening to radio transmissions of other vessels) at the time, would have seen her on that as well.

But then, a destroyer would show up on civilian radar as well, so the merchant ship would have been able to detect the destroyer that way. The only two surface ships that are really designed to have a small and/or non-existant radar return are the USS Zumwalt and the Sea Shadow; I’m not sure if the latter was ever actually commissioned or if she is still an experimental ship. BK05 might know. Submarines will obviously return a radar echo when we run on the surface, but of course not while submerged, unless we are only at periscope depth and the masts are raised (and even then, we would obviously be below most radar with the exception of specialized ASW systems).

Obviously, mistakes were made on both vessels. GCaptain is absolutely correct about that.

Do we know what attempts were made by the merchant vessel to contact the destroyer? From what I have been reading on here, it sounds like we don’t know, yet.


Advincula, the Crystal’s master says he attempted to contact the Fitzgerald with his ALDIS light. link


The Philippine master said that his ship signaled with ‘flashing lights’. I was once in a similar situation but we signaled with the ship’s horn which really woke them up. As it was daytime we didnot use the Aldis lamp. At night we would have used that too. However, it is debatable if that would have helped much as they obviously didn’t keep a proper lookout anywayz. That also applies for the Crystal, probably useless. Did the Crystal use the ship’s horn?

This incident is really weird with all these modern gadgets around these days such as a radar plotting systems and AIS. With all that personnel on board a Navy vessel one would expect that they also had two or three lookouts on both bridge wings and on the top deck. Where was everybody and what were they doing? Boy-oh-boy…


Maybe they were retrying the “Philadelphia Experiment” and something went wrong?

After all there is that discrepancy with the time of the event … hmmmmm.


Actually given the scantlings on a navy vessels (any flag) they would have to go some to breach the containment of an LPG/LNG ship as ballast tanks surround the cargo spaces and the cargo spaces in turn are separated from them by void or inter-barrier spaces. The outcome of an LPG vessel t-boning a DDG would be similar to a box boat. For a DDG to t-bone an LPG carrier it would probably have to be travelling at full chat to breach containment.


With all that personnel on board a Navy vessel one would expect that they also had two or three lookouts on both bridge wings and on the top deck. Where was everybody and what were they doing?

This is the really damning part if you assume the ACX had her nav lights on(no reason to think she didn’t, so I’ve always assumed she did). Why wasn’t she spotted, either visually or on radar? Why did no one on either vessel use the VHF, if either were aware of the other(as the master of the ACX stated he was, since he tried to use the light)? Did anyone sound 5 short?

Based on what it looks like happened, I honestly don’t think the Fitz knew ACX was there. There’s no other way any of it makes sense otherwise.


The trouble is that the Navy seems to live in their own bubble or parallel universe. Recently I had some proof of this on quite a different level but it is exemplary for there attitude. As a model flying club, which includes drones these days, we were in contact with the Navy about a large empty plot which was used earlier as a transmitter and antenna park. They agreed, more or less to our surprise, for us to use it during weekends. They wanted a fee for that which we were willing to pay. After some silence they informed us that it was no deal after all as they had no means of invoicing us…

They were very much insulted when we suggested that they could also let us have it free of charge as we as tax payers already had paid for it anyway. Ouch.


In my own experience this isn’t so true on a Navy ship at sea. Regardless of actual interactions with other ships, I’ve yet to see an instance where a Navy ship I was on was just completely unaware of another large vessel near us. Well, except under one CO, but she went to Admiral’s Mast and ended up getting booted for being a shit CO and ship driver, so that one worked out in the end.

Every ship I’ve been on has always been scanning on every available sensor as far as we could, bouncing radar/sonar contacts off AIS when we could checking to see if other sensors matched what another was seeing, and pinging the bridge to see if they have visual if it’s inside 15 nm, or maybe bringing their attention to something they didn’t see at night / coming up from astern at speed.

It’s just so foreign to me to not be aware of what’s around you while at sea to the absolute best of your abilities.


To make the right move in traffic requires that the conning officer have an accurate picture of the traffic situation. It’s possible to “see” a vessel but still not understand the traffic situation.


It’s possible to “see” a vessel but still not understand the traffic situation.

True enough I suppose.

I’m not sure how this forum feels about Reddit, but the people over at /r/navy are absolutely roasting the Navy on this one, sometimes worse than this forum is. I guess most of us have seen something like this coming for far too long, mainly due to the Navy liking to think sleep isn’t important at all and people can function on 3-4 hours a night for extended periods of time just fine. It’s what a lot of people expect the Fitz final report will say, that the bridge/combat watch teams were exhausted, and not capable of making sound decisions quickly.


What is it all these 300 crew members do when the ship is steaming along at night that make them so exhausted??


Apparently the entire ship is engaged in one big circle jerk all the time.


What is it all these 300 crew members do when the ship is steaming along at night that make them so exhausted??

Mostly that they didn’t sleep at all during the day because that was the work day. The Navy’s had this idea that underway watches are extra / in addition to your normal duties, instead of being one of your primary duties aboard ship. So someone works from 0645-1700 on admin / cleaning / repainting / whatever, then stands say the 2200-0200. Now they’re back awake at 0600 so they can get food / get ready to be back at work by 0645. This can go on for weeks.

Enlisted tend to be better about this than officers(who get the short end of it more often than not), but even some enlisted rates end up like this, especially engineers and the comms / radar guys. Those last two are because anytime a comms system or radar even hiccups the answer tends to be “wake up all the techs for it!”

I’ve seen the effects of it all too well, and don’t allow interference in my division’s sleep. I’ve told department heads that I wasn’t waking someone up because they were already only getting 6-7 hours of sleep before standing a navigation watch, after having been awake for 18-20 hours. I’ve actually ordered my junior guys to bed and had them work on non-essential stuff the next day instead of pushing through it, then just taken the hit from the higher ups myself.


OK, so a Destroyer has a lot of machinery, equipment and weaponry, but it is a relatively small vessels and 300 crew is a lot of manpower.

Even if you allow for a lot of drills during the day (and I assume that watches rotates 24/7??) there are still a lot of man/hours to fill.

To put it in simple mathematical terms; 300 men working max. 12 hrs./day = 36,000 man/hours to fill every day, that should be ample to accomplish whatever is needed, still leaving 12 hrs. of rest/pers./day.

Admin, Maintenance and Repairs is of course taking a lot of time but is it possible that a bit of rationalisation, automation and better management of time could reduce the fatigue problem??

Does ALL Navies have this same fatigue problem, or is this a special problem in the US Navy?
If they don’t, could it be possible to learn something from others??

Just asking. I don’t know anything about how things work in the US Navy, or any other Navies for that matter. I only served my National Service a long time ago on small wooden boats in the Norwegian Navy and I can’t remember anybody being over worked.


The problem is where the fatigue ends up being concentrated. Like I said, my division’s not fatigued because I enforce rest to the point of standing up to people that significantly outrank me to ensure they actually get some sleep.

The issue really comes down to officers and CIC types. Often the OSes in CIC(running the radars etc) are port and starboard(two watch sections rotating), with work / cleaning in between.

Officers on the bridge are generally in 3-4 section, but have a greater number of duties, meetings, briefs, and so on. Then their actual divisional / collateral work, then their watch. Officers on the bridge are absolutely not ever allowed to do work outside quick signing of forms while on watch. I’m sure this is ignored by some officers, at the cost of safety.

Honestly, a lot of it seems to come down to officers being unwilling to stand up for their own sleep. They let themselves take on more and more without realistic deadlines. I straight told my own division officer to tell our department head that something was going to have to wait, because she’d had almost no sleep the night before since she was drafting messages for release, then worked most of the day on the upcoming inspection paperwork, then had watch on the bridge as the OOD from 2100-0000. I told her to go to bed at 1600 and basically just argued with her until she did, even pulling this “Ma’am, having a zonked out OOD driving the ship is exactly how shit like the Fitz happens.” I didn’t want to say it, but that’s the truth, and it was what got her to actually put the work down and go to bed.

The interesting thing is, once she told the department head what she was doing, he was completely fine with it. She had just never actually stood up for it before.


A reasonable hypothesis is that the Crystal was paralleling the Fitz, then made their course change 15° left. The Fitz likely knew the Crystal was there but had dismissed them as not a danger target and no one realized they had turned slightly. The lookouts would have been aware of it and reported it already etc.


It takes a whole lot to get done a little in some cases. Give me a specific example and I can lay it out. A simple scheduled maintenance like pushing a ground detection button on a power panel that takes aproxmently 2.3 seconds could take 20 minutes after you print the check off and gather all the admin, then log it afterwords. Then you might get spot checked on this, and that could take 45min. Not a terrible system but some of the actual checks I might consider not the best use of time.


I actually hadn’t considered that, and that makes more sense actually. We’d have to wait until the report or the Fitz’s track is released to see how much distance was between the Crystal and the Fitz at the time of her turn to see how much time there was between the turn and collision. If nothing else, it would establish a better timeline and help figure out what happened on Fitz.


It’s easily seen by the Crystal’s AIS track. I forget when she made her turn though, I think 20-30 minutes before the collision.


Initially it was “assumed” that the Fitz was bound for Yokosuka Base, thus parallelling the Crystal, but the “official” statement appears to be that the Fitz had left from Yokosuka on the way to Subic, thus would be on an opposite heading of the Crystal as they approached each other. (???)