MAYPORT, Fla. – Naval Station Mayport welcomed the USS Milwaukee and the USS Detroit to the base Friday, the first of 12 littoral combat ships that will eventually be based there.
“This gives the Navy and LCS community more flexibility to deal with changing conditions,” said Cmdr. Michael Desmond, commanding officer of USS Detroit.
The ships have a different style than anything that has been at Mayport before and are faster and more agile than any other. The ships have a top speed of about 40 knots, but with only a 14-foot draft, they can operate much closer to shore than most.
Navy officials said each ship brings more than 800 direct and indirect jobs to the area. They also estimate a boost in the local economy of hundreds of millions of dollars.
"The entire waterfront is excited to add Milwaukee and Detroit to the Mayport Basin, but none more so than Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two," said Capt. Paul Young, commanding officer of the squadron. "This team is ready to commence LCS operations in earnest from the east coast."
The Milwaukee was commissioned Nov. 21, 2015, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since first visiting Mayport last February, the ship's crew has successfully completed full-ship shock trials and has been undergoing planned maintenance availability at BAE Shipyard. The Detroit was commissioned Oct. 22 in Detroit. On Nov. 23, the ship arrived at Mayport and has been conducting combat system ship qualification testing.
More of the ships are scheduled to arrive in 2017.
Outgoing Congressman Ander Crenshaw was on hand for Friday's welcome ceremony. A long supporter of the program who fought for years to bring the fleet to Mayport, Crenshaw said he is proud that one of his last official acts while in office was Friday's ceremony.
“You've already seen the big deck amphibious ships come in with the two support ships. I think Mayport really is the future of the Navy,” Crenshaw said. “And you can see it right here.”
With a crew of 55 that can double to a max of 110 while underway, working not only a new ship, but a new class of ships can be a learning experience. But the Desmond said his sailors are up to the task.
“With the best crew in the LCS community, and the best ship in the LCS community, I think it's a partnership that is going to last quite a while,” he said. “We are very honored to be here.”
If everything stays on schedule, the USS Little Rock, USS Sioux City, and USS Wichita will call Naval Station Mayport home during 2017.