| August 22, 2017 | 18 Comments

The Stars & Stripes reports that some bodies were discovered in flooded compartments of the USS JOHN MCCAIN by Navy and Marine Corps salvage divers and that Malaysians, aiding in the search, have found another body that may or may not be one of the ten missing sailors that were lost when it collided with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC oil tanker.

[Adm. Scott Swift, Pacific Fleet commander] said the destroyer suffered “significant damage” to its port side aft. The admiral, who said flooding has been halted, praised the crew’s damage-response efforts.

“I visited with the crew today,” Swift said. “They are tough and they are resilient. It is clear their damage-control efforts saved their ship and saved lives.”

CNN claims that the accident resulted from a steering failure;

The McCain suffered a steering failure as the warship was beginning its approach into the Strait of Malacca, causing it to collide with a commercial tanker, a Navy official told CNN.

The official said it was unclear why the crew couldn’t use the ship’s backup steering systems to maintain control.

Earlier, another US Navy official told CNN there were indications the destroyer experienced a loss of steering right before the collision, but steering had been regained afterward.

Category: Navy

Comments (18)

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  1. Graybeard says:

    Some of the geek webpages are postulating a hacking attack on the nav systems.

    With what level of insight and knowledge, I do not know.

  2. HT3 '83-'87 says:

    Steering failure? That’s an ambiguous term. Was there a mechanical systems failure or did the ship’s personnel fail to steer properly and collide with the tanker?
    I know these modern ships have backup systems because even the ships designed/built in the ‘60’s & 70’s of my era had them included the old-fashioned manual rudder control.
    If they were entering port, they should have been at ‘Sea & Anchor detail’ with someone manning Aft Steering…at least that’s the way it used to be done.
    I am sad for the families of the confirmed dead, and hope against all odds for those still missing to be safe. Questions need to be answered.

    • deckie says:

      Even to this day (speaking as a merchant mariner) we have steering systems checked and tested before arrival and departure with someone standing by in the event of a steering gear failure. On the Military Sealift Command ships I was usually in the steering gear room with one of those old fashioned headsets with the chest plate waiting for orders in the event steering went down and they transferred control to me, and that was in 2014.

  3. The Chief says:

    Hmmmm…the steering failure happened before the transit into the Strait of Malacca. I don’t recall seeing anything official yet.

  4. Dave Hardin says:

    Aft Steering is not something that you can do in just a few minutes. I will let someone who knows more about it explain, but when it gets practiced in training it takes a good while before anything happens.

    • Silentium Est Aureum says:

      I know that in restricted waters, aka Sea and Anchor Detail, after steering was manned and on the phones with the bridge.

      Under normal circumstances it isn’t but could be in a few moments. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a few moments.

      • HT3 '83-'87 says:

        I never served on a vessel with variable pitch screws, but I thought you could change the pitch to steer like treads on a tank.

        Back in my day Aft Steering was an A-Gang watch station, so I never stood watch in that capacity. I seem to recall they could steer the ship just as they could from the bridge if needed. The last resort was manually, but even all the reduction gears would make that a last resort/battle damage need.

        It still seems impossible to me how you can’t avoid a 600′ plus ship. Some officers are about to be relieved in the aftermath.

    • OSC(SW) Retired says:

      I have been retired for almost a decade but if I recall correctly the loss of steering procedures on the bridge are to immediately shift the online steering gear unit to emergency manual. If that does not work, then they shift to the other steering gear unit and try again. If that does not work they tell aft steering to take control, provided that aft steering is manned.

      Aft steering then takes control of the online unit in emergency override manual mode and attempts to steer if that does not work they switch to a local control unit and try to regain steering.

      DDG steering units are fairly complicated systems and all of this takes time to accomplish. Ships in traffic separation schemes routinely come within 1000 yards of each other and in this case the ship that collided with McCain was being overtaken on both sides when this collision happened. Alnic MC was approaching the area at around 11 knots and if she were following McCain at half a nautical mile (1000 yards) she would cover that distance in under 3 minutes. Even if she attempted a crash back (which I doubt a merchant would try) she probably could not stop soon enough to avoid McCain.

    • Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

      Dave-We had the old hydraulic after steering on the OKIE 3 and it was always manned. I saw the system and I can remember hearing that it was a bitch to work at a slow process. After steering watch was on our sound powered phone circuit along with the bridge, manned Life boat watch and look outs. Many memories as the boat engineer/stern hook on our starboard lifeboat with a B size galley food can loaded with bug juice and enjoying the warm night time Carribean air as we cruised.

  5. Perry Gaskill says:

    Personally, I’d be reluctant to go with the nerdy wet dream that “leet h4x0r doodz pwned” an American warship via GPS.

    What seems more likely is that the McCain had a failure in the steering system that happened at a bad time. Such would not be the same as faulty navigation or bad seamanship. Given the fact that the specific Navy components involved tend to be closely held, it’s hard to say if the failure was electronically related to a fly-by-wire system, auto-pilot decoupling going into the Malacca Straight, something hydraulic, or something else entirely.

    To give perspective on reported conditions, the collision apparently happened near dawn in a narrow 1.5 mile passage with a three-foot chop and normally busy with maritime traffic. If the ship was travelling at, let’s say, 20 knots and lost helm control during a turn, it could have been less than three minutes away from running into something or running aground.

    Was three minutes going to be enough time to recognize the control problem, diagnose what caused it, correct it and/or switch to alternate control, and/or bring the ship to a full stop?

  6. FuzeVT says:

    You’re missing the key words in the story. . .

    “CNN claims”

    I believe anything they say about as far as I could throw Chris Matthews and that aint far.

    It may be true, but the Fake News™ alarms go off in my head when the source is CNN.

    CNN: In other news, the Earth is Round
    Me: Yeah, maybe. Let’s see what One America News says about that.

  7. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    in USS John S. McCain incident
    By Edmund DeMarche Published August 22, 2017 Fox News

    Navy’s top officer orders fleetwide probe into collision
    A top U.S. Navy admiral on Monday called for a swift and thorough investigation into Monday’s collision of the USS John S. McCain into an oil tanker near Singapore — marking the second deadly mishap that occurred in the Pacific in the past three months.

    “Some remains” of the sailors who were declared missing after the collision were found in a sealed compartment aboard the destroyer on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Malaysian officials said they found one body, but were still in the process of identifying it.

    Adm. John Richardson ✔ @CNORichardson
    2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
    4:04 PM – Aug 21, 2017
    120 120 Replies 633 633 Retweets 1,108 1,108 likes
    Twitter Ads info and privacy
    Adm. John Richardson ordered an operational pause in all the fleets around the world while the Navy works to determine the factors behind the collision. Richardson tweeted that the Navy will conduct a wide investigation, including a review into the possibility of “cyber intrusion or sabotage,” — though a Navy official told Fox News on Tuesday any possible cyber sabotage played “no role” in the USS John S. McCain incident.

    Richardson made clear that there is no evidence of a hacking at this point, but some cyber experts have raised to possiblity given the location of the warships.

    Jeff Stutzman, an ex-information warfare specialist in the Navy who works at a cyber threat intelligence company, told McClatchy that “there’s something more than just human error going on.”

    Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
    Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway.
    11:01 PM – Aug 20, 2017
    Photo published for USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship near Strait of Malacca
    USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship near Strait of Malacca
    The collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC occurred east of Singapore, Aug. 21.
    12,415 12,415 Replies 20,131 20,131 Retweets 80,030 80,030 likes
    Twitter Ads info and privacy
    “When you are going through the Strait of Malacca, you can’t tell me that a Navy destroyer doesn’t have a full navigation team going with full lookouts on every wing and extra people on radar,” he said.

    Richardson called for a review of the 7th Fleet’s maintenance, personnel and equipment in the region. He called on a new focus on surface warfare training, which includes tactical and navigational proficiency.

    The USS John S. McCain suffered “significant damage” to its hull after a collision with an oil tanker on Monday near Singapore.

    The 7th Fleet said in a statement that damage to the guided missile destroyer’s hull flooded nearby compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms.

    Aside from the dead and missing sailors, four were hospitalized in Singapore with injuries after being evacuated by helicopter.

    On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald was badly damaged in the collision off the coast of Japan. The waters off Japan are considered congested and considered to be challenging to navigate.

    The seas were relatively calm, and visibility was unrestricted. The bow of the container ship, the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, slammed into the Fitzgerald’s right side above the waterline, quickly flooding several areas inside the ship, including a berthing, or sleeping, area.

    Seven sailors drowned.

    The New York Times reported that there were radar officers working on the bridge and combat information center below and “should have spotted the freighter’s image on their screens.” One sailor wrote the paper: “All I can say is, somebody wasn’t paying attention.”

    The top three leaders aboard the USS Fitzgerald were removed from duty.

    Aside from the USS McCain and USS Fitgerald incidents, the Navy cruiser USS Antietam ran aground dumping more than 1,000 gallons of oil in Tokyo Bay in February. In May, another cruiser, USS Lake Champlain, hit a South Korean fishing vessel.

    Itay Glick, the founder of a cyber security firm called Votiro, told that his initial reaction to news of the USS McCain collision was that it may have been hacked. Glick worked in the cyber-warfare unit of the Israeli intelligence agency and pointed to the possibility of involvement from Russia and China.

    “I don’t believe in coincidence,” Glick said. “Both USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald were part of the 7th Fleet, there is a relationship between these two events and there may be a connection

    • STGCS ret says:

      There is something about it that just stinks to high heaven – call me angry- call me crazy but twice in a month is more than a coincidence. I cry for my shipmates. I am at a loss.

  8. Jim says:

    Been many a year since retiring from US Navy, but I recall aircraft carrier USS Ranger colliding with a merchant in this same waterway late 70s/early 80s. Wonder if their navigation suite was being hacked. SARC. Try this website on for size:
    It covers the maritime industry on a world wide basis. If you visit it with any regularity, you will see how common groundings, collisions and in general human error plague the maritime industry. These events do get much press because a bulk carrier running aground laden with 30,000 tons of cement is not sexy. Unless it runs aground on a protected reef. Then it is sexy.Note the Alnic MC is an oil and chemical tanker. Do not let that fact become common knowledge lest the standard American dumbo (SAD) begins a petition drive to ban that type of vessel. Point being is Strait of Malacca is one busy waterway, and whatever happened is pure speculation right now.
    PS Regarding human error on the high seas:

  9. O-4E says:

    As a Soldier this shit breaks my heart. But admittedly I’m completely ignorant on how a ship operates.

    As an Artilleryman I can sympathize/kinda understand.

    I’ve been in Artillery units that have had firing incidents. One with totally tragic consequences.

    In every incident it was the result of bad leadership.

    The Artillery has a well established system of checks upon checks before a round gets sent down range. A veto system in fact.

    If their is a fuck up a whole lot of shit in that system has gone side ways.

    I imagine a ship to shop collision is no different.

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