WASHINGTON — Vital safety systems of the U.S. frigate Stark "performed well in most areas" after a pair of Iraqi Exocet missiles slammed into the ship's port side in May, a blue-ribbon Navy panel concluded in a report released Thursday.
But the group, chaired by former Navy Undersecretary James F. Goodrich, urged the Navy to add a raft of safety features, including improvements in firefighting and damage-control equipment, to its future ships.
Separately, a Navy investigative report declared that the damage to the Stark, a fire in the ship's crew quarters that claimed the lives of 37 American sailors, resulted from serious command deficiencies. The report, prepared by Rear Adm. Grant Sharp, commander of the Navy's Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two in Charleston, S.C., stems from the Navy's first formal investigation of the Stark incident.
"If properly employed, the combat system . . . had the inherent capability to . . . defend against hostile intent and imminent danger without requiring the ship to absorb the first hit," Sharp's report concluded.
The naval investigators charged the Stark's commanding officer, Capt. Glenn Brindel, with "laxness." Brindel and another Stark officer, Lt. Basil Moncrief, the Stark's weapons officer at the time of the attack, have been allowed to resign from the Navy without courts-martial.
Sharp's investigation seconded the blue-ribbon panel's advice on safety improvements. Both reports called for better portable firefighting equipment and improved means of communication.
As a result, the Navy is readying a package of high-capacity smoke-blowing fans and portable telephones for its forces operating in the Persian Gulf. The gulf force's command ship, the La Salle, is to get a special kit of firefighting equipment that may be dispatched to any ship in need.
Following a two-year review of the Navy's protection and safety systems completed in 1984, the Navy has begun to equip about 300 ships with new fire-protection and survivability systems, Vice Adm. William Rowden told a House defense panel Thursday.
The Stark will draw on some of these alterations during its restoration from November, 1987, through August, 1988, said Rowden, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command and a member of the seven-person blue-ribbon panel named by Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr.