The modern United States Navy (USN) currently (2017) fields some sixty-three destroyer warships and nearly all belong to the Arleigh Burke-class of which seventy-six were originally planned at the end of the Cold War (1947-1991). Sixty-six have been completed to date with sixty-two being active. These numbers mark the Arleigh Burke-class as one of the more important surface fighting ships available to the USN.
USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) represents one of the class and she was ordered on February 22nd, 1990 and saw her keel laid down by Bath Iron Works of Maine on February 9th, 1993. Launched on January 29th, 1994, the warship was commissioned on October 14th, 1995 after William Charles Fitzgerald (1938-1967), a USN officer who lost his life during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The vessel makes its homeport at Yokosuka, Japan (though originally at Naval Station San Diego, California) and fights under the motto of "Protect Your People". It is known by her crew as the "Fighting Fritz".
Outwardly, the warship exhibits an overall length of 505 feet, a beam of 66 feet and a draught of 31 feet. Displacement is 6,900 tons under standard load and 9,000 tons under full load. Her structure is consistent with modern warships of the 1990s with some stealth features built into her design. The bridge sits atop the forward superstructure which integrates the pole-type main mast and the first set of smoke funnels. The aft superstructure contains the aft set of smoke funnels as well as various communications/sensory fits and weaponry. The primary conventional gun system is installed in a traversable turret over the forecastle. The rear of the ship is reserved for a helipad which is attached to a full-service hangar facility. This allows the vessel to embark up to two medium-lift navy helicopters (typically Sikorsky MH-60R types) at once and these can serve in at-sea resupply, Search and Rescue (SAR) and submarine-/ship-hunting roles as required.
Internally the warship is crewed by 281 personnel made up of commissioned offers, chief petty officers and enlisted personnel. Power is from a conventional arrangement involving 4 x General Electric LM2500-30 marine gas turbines developing 100,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. Performance includes a speed of over 30 knots (in ideal conditions) and a range out to 4,400 nautical miles.
Onboard systems include the AN/SPY-1D 3D radar system, the AN/SPS-67(V)2 surface-search radar, the AN/SPS-73(V)12 surface-search radar, the AN/SPG-62 Fire Control Radar, the AN/SQS-53C sonar array, the AN/SQR-19 Tactical Towed Array Sonar and the AN/SQQ-28 LAMPS III shipboard system. Electronic Warfare (EW) is headed by the AN/SLQ-32(V)2 Electronic Warfare System (EWS) as well as the AN/SLQ025 "Nixie" torpedo countermeasures fit. AN/SLQ-39 offers chaff launching against inbound missiles. The Mk 36 MOD 12 serves in the decoy launching role. This provides the vessel with strong situational awareness capabilities as well as self-preservation.
Fitzgerald is a classified as a "guided missile destroyer" which gives an indication as to her ocean-going role and primary armament suit. The vessel is outfitted with two banks of missile launchers, one 29-cell and the other 61-cell, and these are fitted both forward and aft of the centralized superstructures. These cells support various missile types including the RIM-156 SM-2 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM), BGM-109 "Tomahawk" land-attack cruise missile and RUM-139 VL-ASROC (Anti-Submarine ROCket) missiles. Separately there are two Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs). In addition to this advanced missile weaponry, Fitzgerald is equipped with more conventional armament through 1 x Mark 45 5"/54 caliber turreted deck gun, 2 x 25mm chain guns, 2 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs), 2 x Mk 32 triple-torpedo launchers and 4 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
Fitzgerald's career began in 1995 but her first real posting was in 2004 when she was assigned as part of a deterrent force in the Asia-Pacific Theater near Japan as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet. She participated in the 2011 earthquake and relief efforts with Japanese forces and was present to mark the 60th anniversary of the American -Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines. Beyond this, the warship undertook various exercises and patrols as needed and served in support of American carrier groups. Today, her position in the Asia-Pacific Theater makes her a primary player in deterring belligerent actions from North Korea and China.
On June 17th, 2017, USS Fitzgerald was involved in a collision with a Philippines transport ship. Seven of the Fitzgerald's crew were killed in the incident which occurred sixty-four miles southwest of the Fitzgerald's homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. Fitzgerald suffered considerable damage along her starboard side that will require millions of dollars and months to repair. Along with the seven sailors later found in flooded compartments (they were initially listed as "missing"), several injuries to the American crew were reported including the vessel's commanding officer who was airlifted for medical treatment. The warship was assisted back to port by allied ships including those of the Japanese Coast Guard service. Investigations into the incident are ongoing (2017).