The amphibious transport dock ship New York underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship is on track to arrive this year in Naval Station Mayport, Fla., the chief of naval operations says. (MC2 Jonathan Sunderman/Navy)
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The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln into Mayport. Navy leaders still support homeporting a carrier there, as funds allow. (MC2 Salt Cebe/Navy)
The Navy has big plans for Naval Station Mayport, Fla. By the end of the decade, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said, the port will get three more destroyers, a three-ship amphibious ready group, 11 littoral combat ships and three coastal patrol craft.
Plus, he said the Navy still wants to move a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the northern Florida port when it can afford it.
Greenert made these comments at a May 3 gathering of the Navy League and local lawmakers at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
The first ship to arrive will be the amphibious transport dock New York. Officials announced that home port shift in March, with the ship tying up in Mayport around Dec. 1.
“So, many of the plans for the port that you saw last year, most all of them are on track,” Greenert said. “The New York is still planned to be here by the end of this year, and the [amphibious assault ship] Iwo Jima and the [dock landing ship] Fort McHenry will be coming in next year.”
In fact, officials told Navy Times, they expect the amphibious ready group to all be in Mayport by the end of calendar year 2014.
Greenert said he remains optimistic that the Navy is on track to make Mayport the East Coast hub for the littoral combat ship, starting in fiscal 2016.
“I think we’ll still make that,” he said. “The continuing resolution, where we just couldn’t award contracts and continue construction, slowed us down a little bit — but I think you’ll see the first LCS in ’16, and that will grow to 11 by the end of the decade,” he said at the gathering.
Eleven makes three more ships than the Navy had announced last year. The service had already planned the base would get two ships in fiscal 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020. That’s now been amended to include three more arriving in 2019.
Last year’s ship phasing plan released to Congress also showed one destroyer moving from Norfolk, Va., this fiscal year and two more in 2014. That’s now slipped some, but officials said the plan is for three to be there by the end of fiscal 2015.
The three coastal patrol craft, originally slated for this fiscal year, also have been put off for about a year, Greenert said.
“It’s really about getting the maintenance done and sending them down, because they need maintenance,” he told Navy Times in a May 3 interview.
These three craft are likely the ones loaned to the Coast Guard in 2011, officials have told Navy Times. This means the first patrol craft in Mayport could be the Zephyr, Shamal and Tornado, once their overhauls are complete.
Greenert said those patrol craft are expected to be an asset used by the U.S. Southern Command in Central and South America, until the LCS program gets on track on the East Coast.
And Mayport’s dream of another aircraft carrier is still alive — though not on the Navy’s immediate radar.
“It’s still a plan we would like to see come to fruition,” Greenert said. “We don’t have the money right now.”
In the meantime, he said, Mayport will continue to host carrier visits as the Navy works to upgrade the base facilities with needed improvements that could pave the way for large flattops to spend increasingly longer periods in the port.
The Navy is close to making the port “aircraft-carrier capable,” Greenert said.