Warship John S. McCain headed back into operations


Nearly three years after a collision tore a hole in its side and killed 10 of its crew members, the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain is heading back into naval operations.

It’s been a long road back since the warship’s collision with a tanker in the West Pacific in August 2017, which came less than two months after another fatal ship collision involving the destroyer Fitzgerald that killed seven sailors.

This week’s announcement of the McCain’s return comes after the Fitz left a Mississippi shipyard earlier this month and headed for its new home port in San Diego.

An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter from the ‘Warlords’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 51 lands on the flight deck of the destroyer John S. McCain during deck landing qualifications in the Philippine Sea May 26. (MC2 Taylor DiMartino/Navy)

McCain underwent nearly two years’ worth of repairs at the headquarters of U.S. 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, a rehab that included updates to the ship’s computer network, antenna systems and berthing.

It hit the water and got back underway in October.

The destroyer and its crew then began months of basic phase training and certification across 23 areas, including seamanship, navigation and damage control, according to a Navy release.

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Finally, on June 2, the once-stricken ship was declared good to go and able to take on missions for 7th Fleet, a vast command that includes the often-restive waters of the South China Sea.

“We couldn’t have gotten here without the support from the community and all the training organizations that helped us accomplish this,” McCain’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Ryan Easterday, said in a statement. “Big Bad John is back and we’re ready to take the watch.”

Afloat Training Group Western Pacific evaluators Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Chad Gepfrey, top left, and Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Roy Maxwell, top right, observe Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Kenneth Montgomery, center, during an undersea warfare exercise in the sonar control room aboard the destroyer John S. McCain in the Philippine Sea May 22. (MC2 Taylor DiMartino/Navy)


Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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