A Navy warship that was damaged in a deadly 2017 collision left a Mississippi shipyard on Monday morning after more than two years of repairs.
The guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald will undergo testing at sea to make sure it's capable of taking on new missions. Seven sailors were killed on June 17, 2017, when the Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.
The destroyer's crew is credited with saving the vessel after that devastating accident. Now, Navy officials say the Fitz is marking "a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness."
The ship has spent two years undergoing repairs at the Huntington Ingalls Industries-Ingalls Shipbuilding's Pascagoula shipyard. It will now carry out a series of demonstrations at sea that will test the ship's navigation, electrical, combat, communications and propulsions systems.
"The underway reflects nearly two years' worth of effort in restoring and modernizing one of the Navy's most capable warships after it was damaged during a collision in 2017 that claimed the lives of seven Sailors," a Naval Sea Systems Command news release states.
Once the evaluations are done, the destroyer will head back to the shipyard for more training and crew certifications. The Fitzgerald is scheduled to return to the fleet in the spring.
"We are excited to take the next step to get Fitzgerald back out to sea where the ship belongs," Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald's commanding officer, said in a statement. "My crew is looking forward to moving onboard the ship and continuing our training to ensure we are ready to return to the fleet."
The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers damaged in separate fatal 2017 collisions in the Pacific. Ten sailors died when guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided with a civilian tanker near Singapore about two months after the Fitzgerald accident.
That ship headed back to sea in October for testing after years' worth of repairs.
The tragic accidents sparked a host of changes to the way the Navy trains personnel to operate on ships, as well as to sleep schedules and other policies. The accidents also led to fierce criticism after reports found Navy leaders had ignored a host of warning signs in the months and years leading up to the collisions.
Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces Pacific Fleet, is scheduled to testify before members of the House this week on the state of Navy readiness in the Pacific.