April 17 (UPI) -- The USS Fitzgerald launched from dry dock and is moored pier-side in Mississippi this week as the guided-missile destroyer took a step closer to being fully repaired after a 2017 collision that left seven sailors dead, the Navy said.
Naval Sea Systems Command said the Tuesday launch was a "milestone" as it works to restore integrity to the hull and topside structures damaged during the June 16, 2017, collision with a container ship off the coast of Japan.
"The complexity of this overhaul has been challenging, but our planning team at Bath Iron Works and waterfront team at [Huntington Ingalls Industries] is executing repairs and installing upgrades so that Fitzgerald returns to our sailors lethal and mission ready," said Rear Arm. Jim Downey, deputy commander for surface warfare and commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center.
"We're excited to have the ship back in the water where we can begin outfitting and testing efforts in support of getting the ship and crew back underway."
In addition to hull repairs, the USS Fitzgerald was undergoing mechanical, electrical, communications and computer repairs. It is also receiving combat system modernization upgrades.
Last week, the Navy dropped all criminal charges against the top two officers of the USS Fitzgerald and instead decided to issue letters of censure. The Navy said the collision was avoidable and caused by multiple human errors, citing fatigue as a factor.
The Fitzgerald went to Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Japan after the accident.
In November 2017, the destroyer was further damaged by two punctures to its hull during the loading process to Dockwise heavy-lift ship MV Transshelf to Huntington Ingalls Industries' shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.