Nearly three years to the day after the warship Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel off Japan, drowning seven U.S. sailors, the guided-missile destroyer is en route to its new home port in San Diego, according to a Navy release.
The destroyer left the Mississippi shipyard of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Ingalls Shipbuilding on Saturday after more than two years of restoration and modernization.
The Fitz suffered a massive gash in its starboard side and other damage after it was struck by the ACX Crystal on June 17, 2017, a collision that flooded berthing areas, drowning seven shipmates.
Naval Surface Forces officials did not immediately respond to Navy Times questions Monday regarding when the ship might head back out on operations, but the Navy release announcing the departure for San Diego states that the Fitz will now be assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1.
That Navy release also indicates that “crew training and certifications will commence in support of Basic Phase Training” once the Fitzgerald arrives in San Diego.
It was kept secret from the public in part because it was designed to prep the Navy for potential lawsuits in the aftermath of the accident.
Repairs have been made not only to the Fitzgerald’s hull, but also to its mechanical and electrical systems, as well as its combat system and other parts of the ship.
“Due to the extent and complexity of the restoration, both repair and new construction procedures were used to accomplish the restoration and modernization efforts,” the release states.
Before the ship headed for San Diego, the crew completed several training and certification events to operate the ship, and the crew went into “pre-movement sequester” on May 23 as part of the Navy’s COVID-19 pre-deployment guidelines.
“Completing repairs and upgrades to Fitzgerald was only possible because of the outstanding teamwork between the government and industry teams over the last 2 ½ years,” the Fitz’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, said in the release. “I’m especially proud of my crew’s hard work ensuring we are trained and prepared to take our ship back to sea.”