Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayport Readies for New Ships; East Coast Squadron of Navy's Newest Weapon to Be Headquartered at Beaches Installation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayport Readies for New Ships; East Coast Squadron of Navy's Newest Weapon to Be Headquartered at Beaches Installation

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

The first step in the transformation of Mayport Naval Station into the East Coast hub of the U.S. Navy's newest weapon was accomplished Friday morning with the snip of golden scissors on Bonhomme Richard Street.

Within a year, the ribbon cutting for the new Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two headquarters will be followed with the USS Little Rock, the first of eight compact combat ships slated to be stationed at Mayport by 2020.

Capt. Paul Young is commodore of the squadron, which will ultimately support 12 littoral crews of 50 each, plus 250 to 300 military and civilian support staff at the Navy's East Coast littoral combat ship base. A new training center follows in 2018, with a mission support facility by 2019.

"We are stepping off onto a new chapter of surface warfare in the Navy," Young said. "Hundreds will be coming here, and once you add the crews and the modules, you will be adding thousands - sailors, civilians and families."

The arrival of the agile high-speed ships and the 600 sailors who will rotate through them is just a "small glimpse" of what the 73-year-old base will look like in the future, and how it will impact Jacksonville and the United States, said Capt. Wesley McCall, Mayport's commander.

"Ten years from now it will look like a totally different installation, and that demonstrates our Navy and our nation's commitment to Mayport Naval Station and really highlights the strategic importance," McCall said. "... We obviously have the Iwo Jima amphibious readiness group down here, and that has been a tremendous asset to the base and community and I just see growth from there."

Lockheed Martin is building the Freedom-class littorals headed for Mayport, while Austal USA and General Dynamics are building the Independence-class versions based on the West Coast in San Diego. The warships are designed to work in coastal-water battlegrounds and replace the retiring fleet of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates at the base.

The USS Little Rock will arrive at Mayport in December 2016, and the USS Sioux City should follow in 2017. Two more will move from San Diego to Mayport for some of next year as part of the new Mayport facility's "shakedown cruise," Young said. …

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