The littoral combat ship Independence leaves Naval Station Mayport, Fla., in April 2012 en route to its San Diego home port. The Navy wants Mayport to host as many as 14 LCSs by 2020. (MC2 Gary Granger / Navy)
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Fleet Forces Command said Thursday it wants as many as 14 littoral combat ships to call Mayport, Fla., home by 2020 — confirming a basing plan that's been in place for nearly three years.
The move signals the Navy's support for Naval Station Mayport, whose piers are getting increasingly empty as the Navy retires its frigates.
Naval Station Norfolk, Va., is the secondary basing option, FFC said in its https://portal.navfac.navy.mil/portal/page/portal/navfac/navfac_ww_pp/navfac_navfacmidlant_pp/midlant_ps/environmental_norfolk/tab3987837/public%20draft%20ea%20lcs%20east%20coast%20_022713-revised.pdf">environmental assessment draft released Thursday, a 276-page document that details the projected environmental impacts of both basing plans.
"Although no decision has yet been made, the Navy's preferred alternative is to homeport the initial East coast littoral combat ships at Naval Station Mayport," FFC said in a news release announcing the environment assessment.
The move would bring 21 LCS crews to either Mayport or Norfolk, Va., with approximately 3,600 sailors and family members transferring to the selected base. Either move, the assessment found, bears "no significant, adverse, direct or indirect, cumulative effects on the environment."
The Navy's plan to make Mayport the East Coast LCS base was http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/03/defense_lcs_mayport_031010/">first announced in 2010 by then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, who said the ships would start arriving in 2016.
The service has not decided whether the homeport selection will be made by ship type, as the LCS hulls are divided into two separate variants: the monohulled Freedom, designed by Lockheed Martin, and the trimaran-style Independence, built by Austal USA.
"In accordance with strategic laydown plans, it is estimated that no more than eight LCSs would be in port at any one time," according to the report. "Therefore, either eight Austal variants, eight Lockheed Martin variants, or a combination of eight Austal and Lockheed Martin variants would be berthed at any one time."
Naval Station Mayport has been shrinking in recent years. It lost its sole flattop, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, when it was decommissioned in 2007, and the number of frigates stationed there has dwindled.
Shipyard workers and lawmakers in the area have repeatedly pressed the Navy to shift more ships — including a carrier — to Mayport. An amphibious ready group is scheduled to move there in fiscal 2014, but that could be delayed by http://www.navytimes.com/news/2013/02/navy-mayport-florida-sequestration-cuts-030413">coming budget cuts.
Members of the public have until March 29 to comment on the Navy's plans.