Shaking up its forward-deployed flotilla in Spain, eight U.S. Navy warships and a California helicopter squadron have been tabbed for homeport shifts over the next three years.
Initially announced on Tuesday but fleshed out for Navy Times on Friday, the Pentagon plans call for all four guided-missile destroyers stationed in Rota to return home over the next two years, to be swapped out with updated hulls.
And a Naval Air Station North Island-based squadron tentatively has been slated to relocate to Rota to support the quartet of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, officials said.
“The rotation of these ships will be staggered, and we expect them to start around the July 2020 time frame,” said Cmdr. Kyle Raines, spokesman for the U.S. 6th Fleet in Naples.
“The transition is expected to be complete by sometime in the Spring of 2022.”
Raines said that the warship swaps in Rota will be conducted pierside as one-for-one turnovers with the replacements. The process likely will take a week or so to complete with each move.
“At no time will there be less than four ships based in Rota, even as the exchanges take place,” he said.
Carney was the last destroyer to make the homeport switch to Spain, arriving in Rota on Sept. 25, 2015.
It’s expected to return to Florida.
Then the Arleigh Burke, the oldest destroyer in the fleet, will replace the Donald Cook.
The Donald Cook arrived in Spain on Feb. 11, 2014 and is expected to return to Norfolk.
Commissioned in 1991, Arleigh Burke began a DDG Modernization session in 2010 to extend its service life to four decades.
On March 5, it entered Norfolk’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center to begin an Extended Dry-Docking Selected Restricted Availability, too.
Navy officials consider the last three homeport shifts “pre-decisional,” which means that they could be changed.
“These moves are more than a year away, so we’re not prepared to say they are set in stone,” said Cmdr. Francisco “Mags” Magallon, a spokesman for the Navy at the Pentagon.
Under the current Pentagon plan, Ross and Porter will return to Norfolk for overhauls before being slotted back into deployment rotations.
The longest move will be made by the Griffins of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 79, currently assigned to Naval Air Station North Island.
“The helicopter squadron, we expect, will be the last to arrive sometime in 2022,” Raines said. “Logistically it’s a tougher move than those of the ships and thus is expected to take the longest to execute.”
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.