The Navy say goodbye to seven frigates in 2014, including the De Wert, which recently returned from its final scheduled deployment. (MC2 Cayman Santoro/Navy)
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The Navy will welcome the future amphibious assault ship America, to the fleet in 2014. (AOCS Lawrence Grove/Navy)
The fleet is gaining some of the latest amphibious ships in 2014, but also saying goodbye to some stalwarts, including seven frigates, an attack submarine, an amphibious transport dock and a minesweeper. Here’s a look at some of the fleet changes slated for the coming year:
New ships. Three state-of-the-art amphibious ships are set to enter service in the remainder of fiscal 2014: The amphibious transport dock Somerset in March; littoral combat ship Coronado in April; and amphibious assault ship America in September.
Decommissionings. The service plans to retire a total of 12 ships in fiscal 2014, including seven frigates, an attack submarine, an amphibious transport dock and a minesweeper. Frigates Ford and Thach have already been decommissioned. Next up: frigates Nicholas and Robert G. Bradley (March); missile range instrumentation ship Observation Island and frigate De Wert (April); Frigate Rentz (May); mine countermeasures ship Avenger (August); and frigate Halyburton, attack sub Dallas, fast combat support ship Bridge and amphibious transport dock Denver (September).
Big-deck debut. The America is the first in a class of amphibious assault ships capable of launching helicopters, the Marine V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and the Marine version of the F-35 Lightning II, an aircraft designed for short landings and takeoffs.
The long-awaited ship completed builder’s trials in the Gulf of Mexico in November and will be homeported in San Diego.
America and its sister ship, Tripoli, will not have internal well decks, but future big-deck gators will feature one.
Mayport make-goods. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, a fleet mainstay for three decades, are being sold to foreign navies. These retirements are thinning the piers at frigate-heavy bases such as Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
To offset this, officials plan to base littoral combat ships in Mayport, and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group will shift its home port there from Norfolk, Va., in fiscal 2014.
Last hurrahs. Many of these departing ships have been busy. The De Wert returned two days before Christmas from its final deployment, — a five-month cruise to 5th Fleet, where the ship participated in counterpiracy patrols.
The submarine Dallas returned from its six-month deployment in late November, during which it traveled about 34,000 miles — a distance roughly 1˝times the Earth’s circumference. It will now head into a lengthy decom process, where technicians will remove spent uranium and bury its reactor.