Track topics on Twitter Track topics that are important to you
The US navy has ordered a worldwide "operational pause" to reassess its fleet, after the second accident involving a US warship and a merchant ship in Asia in about two months left 10 sailors missing off the coast of Singapore. The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker before dawn on Monday, sending water flooding into the hull and sparking a four-nation search for the missing men. US president Donald Trump, asked on returning to the White House after his holiday for his response to the collision, replied: “That’s too bad” – comments that were roundly condemned on social media. Mr Trump later tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway.” Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway. https://t.co/DQU0zTRXNU— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2017 The accident – the second in two months involving a destroyer with the 7th Fleet – caused Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, to order an immediate halt to operations. "This trend demands more forceful action,” he said. “As such, I have directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world." Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan. USS John S McCain, seen after the collision with the oil tanker Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, said that an urgent review was being carried out. “He has put together a broader inquiry to look into these incidents," said Mr Mattis. The 7th Fleet, with its headquarters in Japan, is the largest of the US navy's forwarddeployed fleets, comprised of up to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and 20,000 sailors. But it is also one of the most stretched. Donald Trump stops to talk with a Marine Corps officer and his family as he returns to the White House on Sunday Credit: AP Its position in the Indo-Asia Pacific region means that it is on the frontline of exercises around the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Seas. In the last 12 months there have been four accidents - the most recent of which, the USS Fitzgerald collision in June, cost seven sailors their lives and resulted in the firing last week of the ship's commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted officer. Although the cause of the USS John S. McCain collision is not yet clear, analysts told The Telegraph they believed that human error caused by exhaustion could be to blame. “I do think questions will be asked over the deployment of the fleet,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based naval expert with IHS Jane's. “I’m not surprised. The first thing that came to my mind was concern about the tempo of operations.” USS John S. McCain seen after a collision, in Singapore waters Credit: Reuters Mr Rahmat said that “crew fatigue” could be a factor. “I wouldn’t say the US was pushing its navy too far, too fast. But it is maybe stretching its resources.” Nick Childs, senior fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, agreed that fatigue was “something you would look at”. “At the very least, it raises questions over procedures and training,” said Mr Childs. “At a situation of high tempo operations, you need to maintain training levels.” He added that the substantial damage suffered to both the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain – which limped into port in Singapore on Monday – would only exacerbate the problem. “The virtue of ships, of course, is that they can be moved around. But would you pull them from the Middle East, causing consternation in Europe about President Putin? “There is a strong political push for the US navy to be built up. But how much money do you want to spend? A Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officer shows to the media the area of the search and rescue operations for missing personnel of USS John S. McCain in Putrajaya, Malaysia Credit: Reuters “There is no doubt the US navy has the best equipped ships in the world, with a high level of competence and training. But questions about the deployments will certainly be asked.” The navy review will look at the 7th Fleet's performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. Admiral Richardson on Monday directed fleet commanders to get together with leaders and command officials to make sure all appropriate actions are being taken now to ensure safety. He said the more comprehensive review would look at operational tempo and trends in personnel, materiel, maintenance and equipment, to ensure there are no bigger problems in the fleet that may be masked by the high pace of operations and budget uncertainties. "This review will be on a very tight timetable," said Admiral Richardson. "I want to get frequent updates. This requires urgent action and se need to get to it and take corrective action."