US fleet commander to be removed after Pacific warship collisions

US fleet commander to be removed after Pacific warship collisions

Joseph Aucoin

The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet is to be removed after a series of warship accidents in the Pacific, two of them fatal, officials have confirmed. One official said Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was being relieved of his post because of the leadership’s loss of confidence in his ability to command.

The move follows four collisions involving navy ships in the Pacific this year, two of which left sailors dead and missing. “While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift said in Singapore.

The navy previously announced a broad review of the 7th Fleet’s performance following the incidents.
Seven sailors died in June after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off Japan. Then the USS John S McCain collided with an oil and chemical tanker off Singapore on Monday. Ten sailors are missing. Admiral Swift said the remains of some had been found.

The pre-dawn collision tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. There were two lesser-known incidents in the first half of the year.

In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka and in May another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the navy’s 3rd Fleet, had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat. The decision to remove Vice Admiral Aucoin was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. He assumed command of the 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan, in September 2015.

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