THE PENTAGON – Repairs to the stricken guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) will take more than a year to complete but those to USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) may take less time, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said on Wednesday.
Speaking to a group of reporters, Spencer said it would be a high priority to fix the two ships that were each involved in a fatal collision with merchant ships. In total, 17 sailors died as a result of the collisions.
“Fitzgerald is going to be more than year. We haven’t had the full assessment of McCain yet but I would hope that would be a much quicker fix because the combat systems weren’t damaged in that case,” Spencer said.
“Needless to say, we need to get McCain and Fitz back out there as quickly as we can.”
Both ships were assigned to the Navy’s forward deployed forces in Japan as part of Destroyer Squadron 15. The seven-ship DESRON is responsible for providing not only support to the Reagan Carrier Strike Group but also ballistic missile defense for U.S. allies and assets in the region.
“Needless to say, we need to get McCain and Fitz back out there as quickly as we can,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s time estimate comes a day after Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the early cost of repairs would be $600 million for both destroyers. A Navy official confirmed the initial estimate to USNI News but said the cost could be adjusted depending on further examinations of both ships.
Naval analysts have told USNI News that given the extensive damage Fitzgerald suffered during its June 17 collision with the merchant ship ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan the cost to repair the one ship could easily top $500 million.
Fitzgerald will be taken via heavy-lift transport to Huntington Ingalls Industries Gulf Coast shipyard to be repaired.
It’s still unclear if the Navy will elect to upgrade the ship’s damaged combat system to the Baseline 9 standard that would give the destroyer the ability to simultaneously perform BMD missions as well as simultaneously interdict traditional aircraft and cruise missile threats.
Fitzgerald, commissioned in 1995, was scheduled for a Fiscal Year 2019 mid-life refresh to its hull, mechanical and engineering systems but not a Baseline 9 upgrade, according to a guided-missile destroyer modernization schedule obtained by USNI News.
A USNI News request for additional information on the nature of the repair made to Naval Sea Systems Command in August has yet to be answered as of this posting.
Meanwhile, McCain is set to be transported to the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan from Singapore for additional repair assessments before the service decides where the ship will be repaired.
How the Navy will pay for the repairs to both ships has yet to be determined, Spencer said.
“We’re going to have to go back up on the Hill because that’s outside our budget numbers,” he said.