Home » Budget Industry » Repair for USS Fitzgerald After Collision Will Cost More Than Fix to USS Cole After Terror Attack

Repair for USS Fitzgerald After Collision Will Cost More Than Fix to USS Cole After Terror Attack

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON — The cost to repair stricken destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) will easily be more than the $250 million the U.S. Navy paid to repair USS Cole (DDG-67) after it suffered a 2000 terrorist attack in Yemen, USNI News has learned.

While it’s too early to craft a complete repair estimate, several naval analysts told USNI News a $500-million bill to fix to the warship was not out of the question.

According to three sources familiar with the early damage estimates, repairs to the extensive damage to the ship’s superstructure, spaces below the waterline, and pricey electronics and radar systems will cost more than repairs to the damage suffered by Cole after an explosives-laden suicide boat attack hit the ship pierside, blasting a hole in the waterline and killing 17 sailors.

The June 17 collision of Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan resulted in the death of seven sailors, extensive damage to the hull, and damage to several high-end electronic systems, such as the integrated radio room on the ship and the starboard forward array of the ship’s A/N-SPY1D(v) air search radar.

The port side of the flared bow of Crystal caved in the superstructure of the ship, crushing the radar face and twisting the metal of the superstructure.

A Navy official told USNI News the assessment on Fitzgerald is ongoing and that an official estimate is still being developed by the service. The service is also debating on how to get the DDG back to the U.S. for repairs, though a heavy-lift ship transporting Fitzgerald to the West Coast is the current favorite option in Navy leadership circles.

Cole was taken back to the U.S. by MV Blue Marlin, a heavy-lift transport for oil rigs, and repaired over a period of two years at what is now the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss.

“The repair process, which cost about $250 million, included removing and replacing more than 550 tons of steel, replacing two 27-ton main engines and modules, installing a new stern flap, which will increase the ship’s speed and fuel efficiency, replacing three gas turbines generators, and installing new galley equipment,” the service said at the time.

The biggest difference in cost will be the replacement and upgrading the electronics of Fitzgerald.

MV Blue Marlin transporting USS Cole from Yemen following the 2000 attack on the ship. US Navy Photo

“The Cole was largely engineering, and it’s electronics that gets you,” retired Navy captain and naval analyst Chris Carlson told USNI News on Wednesday.
“An engine looks expensive, but it’s a pretty basic repair compared to electronic systems.”

Additionally, the spaces that were flooded below the waterline would also need to be gutted, Carlson said.

Bryan Clark, naval analyst with Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said, based on photos of the damage published by the Navy, the costs to repair the ship would easily top the $250 million of the Cole repairs, and could even double that figure.

Fitzgerald, commissioned in 1995, is one of the earliest Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and was due for a $170-million basic hull, mechanical and engineering upgrade in Fiscal Year 2019, according to modernization information obtained by USNI News. The upgrade is meant to get an additional 10 to 15 years of life out of the hull.

However, the Navy will probably elect to upgrade the damaged electronics to the new Baseline 9 standard that allows warships to both target ballistic missiles and fight traditional air warfare threats. That overhaul costs about $270 million.

“That makes the repair-plus-overhaul several times more expensive than originally planned. The problem will still be, what work won’t get done on other ships to pay for the repair?” Clark said.
“Does that mean two BMD modernizations don’t get done? If that’s the trade then it’s not worth it.”

While there are several unknowns around the repair schedule, the Navy has said it was committed to repairing the ship.

“The ship is salvageable,” U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin told reporters on June 17, Stars and Stripes reported.
“It will require some significant repairs. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back as one of our warships here. [Repair time] will take months, hopefully under a year.”

While the repair plan is ongoing, several investigations continue into the cause of the June 17 collision off the coast of Japan.

  • Ed L

    Makes sense

  • Lazarus

    $250m in 2003 is worth $333m in 2017 dollars.

    • Secundius

      You mean ~$362.7-Million USD. USS Cole was Damaged in 2000, Not 2003…

  • RunningBear

    Is this a fortuitous event, except the lamentable loss of the seven sailor/ warriors? We are soon to begin the construction of the flight III Burkes (a more technically advanced DDG) and a reasonable question may be asked, why are these vulnerable systems located on the “skin” of the ship and available for damage or destruction by a common commercial vessel? What happens when the DDG is attacked with intent by a furious opponent? Is this single load of weapons the only contribution that can be given by this extremely “expensively trained” crew? Is this a “cheap” design?

    • Horn

      Your radar face isn’t going to work properly inside the hull. Also, if those electronics you were talking about had been located further inside the ship, then we would have lost dozens of sailors instead of just 7. You don’t seem to be familiar with DDG construction and survivability. This steel-hulled ship got struck amidships by a 29k gross tons container ship, survived, and is actually easily salvageable. Past collisions with the HMAS Melbourne hitting the destroyers HMAS Voyager and USS Frank E. Evans resulted in both destroyers being split in half and the loss of dozens of sailors. That was a large ship hitting something 15k tons smaller than herself. There’s nothing cheap about the Burke’s design.

  • John

    One would reasonably assume that most of the electronics repairs needed to restore her to the fleet (and mentioned as largely driving the high repair cost) would also be needed for her to be useful as a test ship, so you’re really going to save much in the way of time/cost/resources, and lose the fleet a useful hull.

  • Western

    It does give a person pause to consider a wartime scenario and returning our fleet to operational status during a conflict. Do we have the logistics chain to make this happen? Do we design in sufficient redundancy of critical systems? Are systems placed in the most survivable locations of a ship?
    Does the Captain’s cabin really need a porthole, or should he be amidships behind the bridge?

    • Refguy

      I don’t recall any portholes on the Burkes. The sea cabin IS behind the bridge, but the damage appears to be to the in-port cabin

  • Duane

    Very sobering. The loss of 7 souls, and the huge bill for the taxpayer, all resulting from human error, according to reports of the Navy’s preliminary investigation.

  • Paul Antonio

    So based on what I’m reading, FITZGERALD was due for a $170m upgrade. That means that if they execute those upgrades as part of the “repairs” then the ship’s actual cost for repair is only $80m. Now, I say this tongue-in-cheek because that’s still a lot of money. However, if we look at the $80m and compare it to the cost to repair COLE (I believe that the damages may or may not be comparable, but assume they are) a better comparison would be to adjust the COLE repair cost in today’s dollars.

    • pto

      the article speculates $500 million, which probably means it is worth it to repair… but if it gets up around $750 million or a billion then I think you need to start looking at a new ship and the extended life you get for about twice the repair costs.

    • Bill

      I was thinking the same.

    • USNVO

      No, as I read it, the cost to bring it back to what it was before would be $250 million. The upgrade is an additional planned $170 million. Now since the ship would already be in dock and at least some of the equipment being changed is the same, the combined cost would be somewhere between the estimated baseline repair and the combined estimates.

  • Mad River

    I wonder if MER1 and aux 1 spaces were flooded. If you have to replace main engines, MRG, GTGs, switchboards, consoles, and the huge volume of electrical /computer equipment that would be flooded that may explain the costs. A berthing, radio room, SPY-1 array, and steel work don’t seem to equate to COLE’s major internal structural damage due to blast over pressurization, main space/aux space flooding as well as MRG, GTM, GTG, and galley replacement.

    • USNVO

      The initial reports indicated AUX1 was flooded but MER1 wasn’t. I think the biggest costs are coming from replacing all the equipment in radio central (that can’t be cheap) as well as fixing the SPY-1.

      • DaSaint

        As well as Gas Turbine replacement, etc.

        • Kenneth

          Gas turbine replacement is a simple repair these days. Anything in the main space is simple considering.

          • DaSaint

            The space was flooded. Wires and control systems fried.

      • Steven LoBue

        On the other side of those 2 SPY arrays is almost the entirety of the SPY transmitter and beam controls for the signal processor. That amount of impact would have likely shattered the ceramic cooling barriers from the skid and destroyed what wasbt directly hit by the other ship. Wave guides are tweaked and bent where even a milimeter sized dent would kill the radar on one side. Article called it a SPY-1 D(v) radar though. Thats impossible. At best it would be either a SPY-1 A/B/D but not the victor. That is reserved for the Flight 2(a) destroyers only. (DDG-91 and up) which are only home ported CONUS and pearl. (I was a SPY tech)

        • USNVO

          I also questioned whether the specific SPY-1 arrays on the FITZ are even made anymore (not an AEGIS guy). Spare parts sure, but they probably broke a lot of things that are never planned to fail. If you had to completely replace the SPY-1 arrays, that would be really expensive.

  • mark e. clark

    Strip the ship. Use the money for something else. Take what is good on the ship and have it available for other ships that may need the parts. Stricken from the records.

  • condondeb


  • condondeb

    Big bucks!! Not surprising at all, remember: “a boat is a hole in the water, into which you throw money”. I don’t care if it’s a row boat or a DDG-51 Class ship, you bang it up, you have to pay to fix it. The loss of life compounds the pain that will never go away.

  • RunningBear

    “damage to several high-end electronic systems, such as the integrated radio room on the ship” not related to the T/R antennas for all RF systems (on the skin, as required).

    • USNVO

      So where exactly would you put radio central? On a 963 and most preceding classes for instance, radio central is above the waterline right behind CIC which is directly below the bridge. Much more exposed to the typical battle damage than where it. Is on a DDG.

  • Steve Knickerbocker

    Bet the Cole cost more than the Roberts ($89 million) to repair. Newsflash water is wet, inflation makes things cost more.

  • Secundius

    I don’t recall the USS Cole loosing it’s SPY radar network…

    • John Locke

      Are the SPY electronics cabinets on the mess decks?

      • Secundius

        I would think “Microwave Ovens” are a Safer Application to Heating Foods…

  • Kenneth

    Once in the shipyard the ship will be back at sea in less than a year. Yard workers will swarm and start cutting all the damage out. Everything will be prefabbed and ready to install. As a ship supt in a shipyard I have seen what workers can do on a 24 hour schedule. Electronics will be the difficult part of rebuild.

  • Austin

    Questions you will not hear asked: “How many women were on the bridge…and what were the topics of discussion just prior to the collision?”

    • John Locke

      Really? Why wouldn’t that be asked?

  • Maxine

    Time for a rethink and upgrade of these ship’s radar systems. If you can’t see a large cargo ship then there’s no hope in intercepting missiles or conducting precision strikes. The Aegis system is outdated and has been in need of a replacement for years.

    • Secundius

      Considering the Accident happen while the Ship was STILL in Port!/? I suspect the SPY radar was Never Turned ON…

      • John Locke

        Can you turn on SPY in port?
        Aren’t there RF restrictions so as not to interfere with local communications?
        Is SPY the best option for surface search?

        • Curtis Conway

          When in port its not an issue in most places. Frequency (S-band).

        • Secundius

          There probably are!/? I would think that are Small Aircraft Airports within a Few Miles of any Busy Shipping Port Facility as well as Law Enforcement and other Small Craft’s. Even a 50% Power, any SPY Radar would probably Overwhelm any Non Mil-Standard Equipment…

    • Bud Wyllie

      I took 19 Cruisers and 28 destroyers to sea trials as the AEGIS Test Manager and Combat System Trial Coordinator in Pascagoula. This was no fault of the combat system. These ships, Ticonderoga CG47 Class, and Arleigh Burke DDG 51 Class with the AEGIS Weapon System are the fighting ships of the Blue Water Navy that keep the oceans free. There are other specialized surface radars in each of these ships that would have tracked the merchant vessel clearly for the OOD on his radar repeater adjacent to the Captains chair on the Bridge. The incident in Fitzgerald happened simply because someone wasn’t paying attention and doing their job.

      • Secundius

        Do you think the “Dosing” of Modafinil (Provigil) might have played a role in Collision of the Two Vessels?/! 300mg to 400mg can have a Detrimental Effect on Watchstanders by making them “Punchy” in Reaction Times…

        • Bud Wyllie

          Probably so, but are you suggesting the entire watch section was “punchy?” including CIC? For those of you who are wondering, the SPY-1 is not the primary navigation radar for close-in nav.

          • Secundius

            That WASN’T my suggestion!/? Just a Possible Observation?/! Several Merchant Marine Publications have Reported “Dosing” of “Watchstanders” and Accident Rates Climbing Higher than what for “Them” is considered Normal. I remember a Reforger Exercise in September 1975, and being Issued “Dextroamphetamine” (Dexies/Dexy’s) and Feeling “Wired” during the Entire Exercise. And getting “Sloppy” at my job while being Wired. And being a Senior Helicopter Mechanic/Ordnance Officer and being “Strung-Out” at the Same Time ISN’T a Good Mix. After that my Drug of Choice was “Coffee”. At least that way, I could Control the Effects by the Amount of Consumption…

    • robertg222

      Your assuming that it was the radar not seeing the cargo ship when it’s more likely the operators eyes weren’t looking at the radar screen.

  • All those expensive electronics did not prevent the collision. If we cannot successfully execute such a basic task, it is difficult to be confident in the Navy’s ability to execute other more complex tasks such as launching missiles and be assured they will strike the proper target. BTW…I am a Navy veteran and a loyal supporter. This episode erodes my confidence. Maybe the electronics are beyond the capability of the crew to master???

    • John Locke

      It’s not the machine it’s the man. The OOD obviously lost the surface picture.

      • Jeff Miller

        Your response confirms my point. If the OD cannot correctly interpret the information presented to him by his expensive electronics, what good are the electronics? Maybe it is a failure of the training process. We’ve not heard much about the OD….maybe he was wet behind the ears. Of course, that is its own problem!! At the end of the day, the collision was inexcusable.

        • John Locke

          I was not thinking of an OOD glued to a scope on the bridge. My interest is along the lines of how often the OOD went out on the bridge wings to get visuals.

          • Secundius

            And what of the “Other” Seven that were Killed during the Collision?/! What did They SEE or DIDN’T See…

        • USNVO

          Your final conclusion is correct but your logic to get there is impossible to follow.

          Because the bridge teams (note, both ships screwed up here) can’t keep track of the surface picture (note, I expect that the electronics showed exactly what was happening on both ships) you think it brings into question the ability to fire missiles? That is like saying that because one 777 Flight crew couldn’t properly utilize their autopilot on landing at SFO that the aircraft could be unsafe despite the fact that thousands of flight crews safely land the aircraft without incident every single day. Beyond that, you are extending an extremely rare event in one area to an entirely different set of crew members and entirely different equipment in another area.

  • gamersglory

    What ship will be sent to relieve The Fitzgerald while under repair?

    • Secundius

      According to “Business Insider”, probably a Japanese Destroyer with Similar Capabilities!/? But as to “Which”, the Japanese Government haven’t yet decided…

  • Steve Richter

    Does the equipment that tracks approaching ships not sound an alarm or give a verbal warning when something gets too close?

  • Saripul

    “The biggest difference in cost will be the replacement and upgrading the electronics of Fitzgerald.”
    So don’t do it. Rip out what’s left and call it a boon in free spare parts. Put Fitz back together as a DD, not a DDG, and optimize her (with fewer crew and more gas) for the taxing patrols popular in the current style of Western Pacific deployments.
    Use her to field and evaluate new surface warfare tools. Make her the proof of a very old concept — not every destroyer needs to be an air warfare kingpin. Not every destroyer needs to cost a Billion dollars.

    • Secundius

      It’s not that easy?/! This is NOT like the Weekend Warrior DIY Home Project of “Slicing Wires” and Praying that the Splice Works when you Need It the Most. In the case of USS Fitzgerald, i’ll be surprised it the Whole Superstructure DOESN’T have to be Replaced…

  • DB45

    build more submarines. we need a huge missile platform under the sea. im thinking around 250 cruise and hyper missile. we can use f35 and drones and satellites to target. they should just make the thing do 25 knots max with a dept of around 500 feet. no one on board just have it near the fleet. oh yea bigger missile range. make the thing cheap just a huge missile platform put 5 in every ocean. spend about 250 million on each. we could have flattened syria with 3 of them