17 October 2014
Fleet to shift three destroyers to Japan
Each ship to be outfitted with ballistic missile defense
By Lance Bacon
Staff writer
Navy Times


The destroyer Benfold transits the Pacific Ocean in 2012. Benfold is the first of three destroyers that will move their home ports to Japan. (MC3 Dustin W. Sisco/Navy)

The next three years will see three destroyers — two from San Diego and one from Norfolk, Virginia — shift home ports to Japan as part of the fleet’s Asia pivot. The changes announced by Fleet Forces Command Thursday:

  • The Benfold, a ballistic missile defense-capable ship, will leave the West Coast in the summer of 2015 for Yokosuka, Japan.
  • The Norfolk-based Barry will, in early 2016, conduct a hull swap with Lassen, which has operated out of Yokosuka since 2005. Lassen will homeport in Mayport, Florida, upon its return. Barry is to get the BMD-upgrade before it shifts to Japan.
  • The BMD-capable Milius will head to Japan in the summer of 2017.

The change is part of the Navy’s long-range plan to put the most advanced and capable ships forward, FFC spokeswoman Julie Ann Ripley said in the Thursday release. The moves also fulfill a promise made in April by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to place two additional BMD-capable ships in Japan by 2017.

The Barry, Benfold, and Milius will complete midlife modernizations prior to making the switch and will be outfitted with Aegis Baseline 9, the latest combat system, which is capable of defensive and offensive operations against aircraft, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, surface ships, submarines and shore targets, the FFC release said. The Flight I destroyers are also to receive fully integrated bridges, quality-of-life upgrades and advanced galleys.

Lassen will undergo similar modernization upon its return to the United States.

The moves are part of the Navy’s plan to shift 60 percent of the fleet to the Pacific by 2020. The U.S. national strategy shifted to focus on the region in 2012, with tensions between China and Asian neighbors growing and the North Korean instability deepening.

The three BMD-capable destroyers will add to a formidable arsenal tasked with protecting Japan and other U.S. allies. These include the new TPY-2 radar, which will provide a regionally responsive missile defense capability and is scheduled to start operations at Kyogamisaki later this year.

The Pentagon also has voiced its desire to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile defense battery in South Korea — an emplacement that China and Russia have decried as a move that would trigger an arms race.

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