THE PENTAGON — The destroyer damaged by a collision with a merchant vessel off the coast of Japan is heading back to the U.S. for repairs, according to a Navy solicitation issued last week for a transport large enough to take the warship back to the U.S.
A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the solicitation is a sign that service leadership has decided to take USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) back to the U.S. for repairs to fix the hundreds of millions of damage from the June 17 collision that claimed the lives of seven sailors.
According to the Aug. 4 Fed Biz Opps solicitation, the Navy is looking for, “one U.S. or foreign flag Float On/Float Off (FLO/FLO) vessel capable of transporting an ARLEIGH BURKE class destroyer from [the] Far East to U.S. Gulf Coast or U.S. East Coast.”
The official said while the solicitation names the homes of the two shipyards that build Arleigh Burke destroyer, the work will likely be done on the West Coast.
A Tuesday report from Reuters indicated Fitzgerald could move as soon as next month.
The ship that will be contracted required to pick up Fitzgerald in Yokosuka for the trans-Pacific journey in a move reminiscent of the transport of USS Cole (DDG-67) from Yemen to the East Coast after the 2000 terrorist attack that killed the lives of 17 sailors.
At the time, the U.S. Navy commissioned the Norwegian heavy transport M/V Blue Marlin for $4.5 million to transport Cole at the time ($6.5 million in 2017 dollars) to take the ship back to the Gulf Coast for repairs from the Middle East.
While the Navy is still tabulating the estimates, the cost to repair Fitzgerald could easily exceed $500 million — twice the repair bill of Cole.
Much of that cost will be driven by the extensive damage to the ship’s electronic systems, USNI News reported last month.
“The Cole was largely engineering, and it’s electronics that gets you,” retired Navy captain and naval analyst Chris Carlson told USNI News last month.
“An engine looks expensive, but it’s a pretty basic repair compared to electronic systems.”
Several investigations into the collision with Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal are ongoing.
The ship’s commander at the time, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was temporarily relieved last month for medical reasons.