Written by Gabriel Otis
The USS Fitzgerald, also known as ‘Fighting Fitz’, has been repaired at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and begun her return to San Diego. The repairs were needed due to a fatal collision in 2017 with a Philippines-flagged cargo vessel off the coast of Japan. This tragic event led to the casualties of seven sailors.
The USS Fitzgerald will be returning to the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, Naval Base San Diego. Once ‘Fighting Fitz’ arrives in port, preparations will begin for future deployments. This week, the ship made a stop in the Panama Canal en route to San Diego.
Despite being commissioned in 1995, with the recent repairs, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer has the combat technology of the same type of destroyer built today. According to the Commanding Officer of the USS Fitzgerald, Cmd. Scott Wilbur, the repair project was made possible by the extremely important government-industry relationship. The U.S. Navy’s priority throughout this restoration project was to return ‘Fighting Fitz’ to “fighting shape.”
Prior to this 2017 collision, USS Fitzgerald has been a strong force in the Asia-Pacific region. The ship’s maiden deployment was in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility. USS Fitzgerald has operated as part of multinational interception forces upholding UN sanctions as well as supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Additionally, ‘Fighting Fitz’ has been a key player in a range of joint military training drills and exercises with the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and Australia. In 2011, USS Fitzgerald hosted the U.S. Secretary of State and the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary for the signing of the Manila Declaration.
Director of Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage describes USS Fitzgerald as “one of our nation’s most capable warfighting platforms.” This signals that USS Fitzgerald’s return to the Pacific Fleet marks a strategic and important move towards war-fighting readiness and possible future deployments. With tensions rising in the Asia-Pacific region, it is of growing importance that we have one of our nation’s premier guided-missile destroyers ready to contribute to the strong American presence in the region that is needed at this time. ‘Fighting Fitz’ will be a vital tool in ensuring that we encourage and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.