U.S. Navy Won’t Upgrade USS Fitzgerald to Baseline 9 Aegis Combat System

October 16, 2017 5:31 PM
USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. US Navy Photo

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) won’t be upgraded to the latest version of the Aegis Combat System when it completes its repairs following a collision with a merchant ship off of Japan, according to Naval Sea Systems Command.

Instead of upgrading the combat system of the destroyer to the new Baseline 9 standard, which allows the ship to simultaneously take on ballistic missile and traditional air warfare threats, Fitzgerald will retain a legacy version of Aegis when the destroyer returns to the fleet after its planned repair at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss, NAVSEA said in a statement to USNI News.

Fitzgerald was already scheduled to undergo a midlife upgrade in Fiscal Year 2019, though the Navy intended to conduct a scaled-down availability that would cover hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) improvements but not a combat system upgrade to Baseline 9. Following the collision, despite the need to replace portions of the ship’s combat system, radar and electronics, the Navy decided to go along with its original decision to keep the ship in a legacy configuration instead of upgrading to Baseline 9.

“There are no additional DDG-51 Flight I ships planned to receive Baseline 9 upgrades. The USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) is capable of performing Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) operations and is planned to receive all FY19 scheduled alterations to include HM&E, [command, control, communications, computers, cyber and intelligence] and BMD upgrades during the restoration availability,” reads the statement.

The planned HM&E availability is estimated to cost about $170 million and will retain the legacy military computers instead of upgrading the destroyer with modern servers. The full mid-life upgrade for a destroyer would have cost around $270 million

In total, the final cost for the repair for Fitzgerald is estimated to run about $367 million and take more than a year.

The ship was severely damaged when it collided with a merchant ship ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan on June 17 resulting in the death of seven sailors. The flared bow of Crystal caved in the superstructure of the ship, crushing the radar face and twisting the metal of the superstructure. The bulbous bow of Crystal punctured the ship below the waterline and flooded the ship’s berthing and several machinery spaces.

Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) is being repaired at the U.S. Navy facility in Yokosuka, Japan, after its own fatal collision with a merchant ship off of Singapore that resulted in the death of 10 sailors. McCain completed its mid-life upgrade in FY 2015.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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