US Navy Will Replace Destroyer Touchscreens After Deadly Collisions

Control systems are to be replaced after unfamiliarity led to 17 sailor deaths.

Damage to USS Fitzgerald after the collision near Japan in 2017 (Picture: US Navy).

The US Navy is turning its back on the latest touch screen navigation technology installed on destroyer vessels after incident reports found unfamiliarity with the controls contributed to two separate accidents that killed 17 sailors.

Crew surveys found that sailors "overwhelmingly" preferred control ships with wheels and throttles, as the US Navy investigated collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John McCain in 2017.

Poor levels of crew training on the complex controls are understood to have played a role in the collisions, both of which were deemed by investigations as preventable and the result of "multiple failures".

USS Fitzgerald returning to Yokosuka, Japan, after the collision (Picture: US Navy).

Personnel were dismissed from the service while senior officers were charged with "negligent homicide" following two separate collisions with container ships.

Seven sailors died near Japan when the USS Fitzgerald hit another vessel in June 2017, whilst ten were killed close to Singapore two months later, during the incident involving the USS John McCain.

Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, Program Executive Officer for Ships, told USNI that "really eye-opening" fleet surveys revealed a strong desire to move away from "overly complex" displays.

The familiar, physical throttles and traditional helm control may see action once more by summer 2020, as the US Navy's U-turn to mechanical controls is set for completion within 18-24 months.