USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer currently in the service of the United States Navy. She is part of the Destroyer Squadron 15 within the Seventh Fleet, and has her homeport at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.
The destroyer was involved in a collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC on 21 August 2017 off the coast of Singapore, which resulted in the deaths of ten of her crew, and left another five injured. This event occurred a little over two months after a collision between USS Fitzgerald and MV ACX Crystal resulted in fatalities.
This warship is named after John S. McCain, Sr., and John S. McCain, Jr., both admirals in the United States Navy. John S. McCain, Sr. commanded the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, and later the Fast Carrier Task Force during the latter stages of World War II. John S. McCain, Jr. commanded the submarines USS Gunnel and USS Dentuda during World War II. He subsequently held a number of posts, rising to Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Command, before retiring in 1972. These men were, respectively, the grandfather and father of Senator John S. McCain III.
John S. McCain's keel was laid down on 3 September 1991, at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. She was launched on 26 September 1992, sponsored by Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain III, and was commissioned on 2 July 1994, at the Bath Iron Works. The former President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, was the ceremony's principal speaker. The ship was initially assigned a home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and shifted to a forward-deploy port in Yokosuka, Japan in 1997.
In January 2003, John S. McCain deployed to the Persian Gulf. She launched 39 Tomahawk missiles in support of the invasion of Iraq and was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her service. John S. McCain was awarded the Navy Battle E for DESRON 15 in 2003 and again in 2004. On 16 February 2007, John S. McCain was awarded the 2006 Battle Effectiveness Award.
On 11 June 2009, a Chinese submarine reportedly collided with the towed sonar array of John S. McCain near Subic Bay, Philippines. The incident caused damage to the array but was described as an "inadvertent encounter".
In June 2009, John S. McCain pursued the North Korean cargo ship Kang Nam 1 toward Burma in enforcement of the new United Nations resolution of an arms export embargo against North Korea. The vessel was suspected of carrying arms for the Burmese junta government. Kang Nam 1 returned to North Korea without delivering her cargo to Burma.
In March 2011, in company with the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, the ship was deployed off northeastern Honshu, Japan to assist with relief efforts after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. During that time, the ship may have been exposed to leaking radiation from the Fukushima I nuclear accidents.
In April 2013, John S. McCain was sent to South Korea during escalating tensions between the Koreas. In June 2014, John S. McCain was sent to Subic Bay to perform in CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) exercises.
On 2 October 2016, USS John S. McCain and USS Frank Cable made the first port visit by U.S. Navy ships to Cam Ranh Bay since end of the Vietnam War in 1975. In August 2017, John S. McCain sailed past Mischief Reef in the South China Sea as part of a planned series of freedom of navigation operations (also referred to as FONOPs) in the area.
At 5:24 a.m. on 21 August 2017, John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC off the coast of Singapore and Malaysia, east of the Strait of Malacca. According to a United States Navy press release, the breach "resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms." Ten US Navy sailors died as a result of the crash. After the incident, the ship, which sustained damage to her port side aft, was able to sail to Changi Naval Base in Singapore under her own power. The U.S. Navy announced on 24 August 2017 that it would be suspending search-and-rescue efforts for survivors in the open sea to focus on the recovery of the remains of the missing sailors still inside the flooded compartments of the ship. By 27 August U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers had recovered the remains of all 10 sailors.
The Navy suggests a fatigued bridge crew, poor communication between crew members and crowded shipping lanes are the most likely culprits. CNN quotes an unnamed "Navy official" stating that the ship lost steering control shortly before the accident but that "it was unclear why the crew couldn't use the ship's backup steering systems".
The collision was the second such incident in just over two months – the other involved John S. McCain's sister ship USS Fitzgerald and the container ship MV ACX Crystal. On the same day as the collision between John S. McCain and Alnic MC The Pentagon ordered all fleet operations around the world to make a brief "operational pause" for safety checks during the following two weeks, as well as beginning a full safety review. The U.S. 7th Fleet commander at the time of the accident, Joseph Aucoin, was relieved of his command on 23 August 2017 for "loss of confidence in his ability to command". Rear Admiral Richard Brown was named to lead an internal investigation of the accident. Brown is a former commander of sister ship The Sullivans and currently serves as commander of Naval Personnel Command and deputy chief of Naval Personnel. On 18 September 2017, the new U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Phillip Sawyer, as part of the investigations into four surface ship incidents involving Navy ships in the Western Pacific in 2017, including the collision involving the John S. McCain, ordered that Rear Admiral Charles Williams, commander of Combined Task Force 70, and Captain Jeffrey Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, be removed from their positions due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command.
On 6 September 2017, the Military Sealift Command awarded a contract to the Dockwise marine transport company to move the damaged McCain in late September from Singapore to a US repair facility in Yokosuka, Japan where a damage assessment will be completed.