Navy still favors Mayport as home port for littoral ship fleet

Headline Goes Here U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

The USS Independence of the General Dynamics Independence Class and USS Freedom of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships.

MAYPORT, Fla. - The Navy's Fleet Readiness Command reaffirmed on Thursday it wants up to 14 littoral combat ships to be based at Mayport by 2020.

"Although no final decision has yet been made, the Navy's preferred alternative is to homeport the initial East Coast LCSs at Naval Station Mayport," stated the Navy's press release.

The move would bring 21 crews totaling about 3,600 sailors and family members to either Mayport or Norfolk, Va.

The Navy's plan to make Mayport the East Coast base for the fleet was first announced in 2010 by then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, who said the ships would start arriving in 2016.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, and a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, applauded the Navy's announcement of Mayport as the "preferred alternative" for homeporting all East Coast littoral combat ships.

"The littoral combat ship is the future of the Navy, and this decision places Mayport center stage when it comes to our national security," said Crenshaw. "Northeast Florida military bases are a solid anchor to our national security, and homeporting the East Coast LCS fleet at Mayport is a natural fit for this ship."

Naval Station Mayport has been shrinking since losing its last aircraft carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, in 2007. The number of frigates stationed there has dwindled.

An amphibious ready group is scheduled to move there in fiscal 2014, but that could be delayed by coming budget cuts.  Current plans also call for the base to be upgraded to house a nuclear aircraft carrier by 2020, but that could also be threatened or delayed by budget constraints or political influence from lawmakers in Virginia, who want to keep all East Coast carriers based in Norfolk.

Thursday's announcement came as the Navy released a draft environmental assessment to evaluate the potential environmental effects of homeporting littoral combat ships at either Naval Station Norfolk or Naval Station Mayport.

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