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US Navy removes 7th Fleet commander Joseph Aucoin after collisions

The US Navy will replace its 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, after a string of collisions involving warships. Several sailors are missing after the latest incident off Singapore.

Joseph Aucoin USS Fitzgerald (Reuters/T.Hanai)

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin speaks to the press aboard the USS Fitzgerald

Navy Vice Admiral Aucoin was removed on Wednesday - two days after the USS John S McCain was damaged in a collision with an oil tanker.

The decision does not signal that Aucoin, who commands the American 7th Fleet, was responsible for four recent incidents involving ships under his command. However, the move follows the US Navy's tradition of removing commanders when confidence in them has been lost, reported the Wall Street Journal.

"An expedited change in leadership was needed," an unnamed official told Reuters on Tuesday, hours before Aucoin was formally relieved of duty.

USS John S. McCain

The hole on the ships left rear side is about 6 meters (20 feet) long

'Pause' for investigation

Even before the string of collisions, Aucoin had been scheduled to step down in September and be replaced by Phillip Sawyer, the deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet. The Asia-oriented 7th Fleet is part of the US Pacific Fleet.

The US Navy announced a wide-reaching probe after Monday's collision and ordered its top brass to prepare for a brief "pause" in global operations while the issue is investigated. 

At least 10 sailors were missing after the collision. On Tuesday, divers found human remains inside the hull of the USS John S McCain.

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship near Japan in June, killing seven sailors. Last week, the military announced that several senior commanders were relieved of duty after the incident.

Watch video 00:37

US Navy orders 'operational pause'

dj/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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