US Navy: 3 ships decommissioned this week

The US Navy’s Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships USS Champion (MCM 4), USS Scout (MCM 8) and USS Ardent (MCM 12) recognized nearly 30 years of naval service during decommissioning ceremonies onboard Naval Base San Diego this week.

US Navy

Champion will officially decommission on Aug. 25, Scout on Aug. 26, and Ardent on Aug. 27.

Photo: US Navy

Due to public health safety and restrictions of large public events related to COVID-19, the ceremonies were virtually celebrated with ship plank owners and former crew members.

As Scout’s guest speaker, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, wished the crews of the San Diego-based MCMs fair winds and following seas as they bid farewell to their ships.

“Champion, Scout and Ardent Sailors, past and present, are a special breed. These Sailors served with distinct pride and dedicated tremendous energy in representing the U.S. Navy’s minesweeping community over the lifespan of these unique ships,” Kitchener said.

“The Avenger class ships and specifically the USS Champion, have provided robust MCM capability over the past three decades to ensure that freedom of navigation is maintained and enabled the U.S. Navy to conduct maritime operations globally. The Champion has served her crews, Navy and nation well, but now we are approaching the sundown for these MCM ships and the dawn of Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures systems,” Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, added.

Champion was built in Marinette, Wisconsin by Marinette Marine Corporation and commissioned Feb. 8, 1991. Originally assigned to Active Naval Reserve, Mine Countermeasures Squadron Two, she spent most of her years homeported in Ingleside, Texas and San Diego, California. Since 2000, Champion has operated exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast. Her stateside presence allowed for continuous improvement of Mine Warfare technologies and crew training for forward-deployed naval forces in Bahrain and Japan.

The fourth ship to bear the name, USS Scout (MCM 8) was laid down on June 8, 1987, at Peterson Builders in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She was launched on May 20, 1989 and commissioned on Dec. 15, 1990. Since then, this Avenger-class MCM has, along with her Sailors, helped spread freedom and democracy around the world. Among her achievements are helping to evacuate refugees from Kosovo in 1999, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Hurricane Katrina relief operations in 2005.

Ardent was commissioned Feb. 8, 1994. In 1998, while underway in the North Arabian Gulf, she received emergent tasking to assist USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168) in locating and recovering a downed F/A-18C. Later that year she conducted operations inside Iraqi territorial waters in Mine Danger Area (MDA) 10 in support of Operation Desert Fox. Ardent departed on an emergency sortie from Mina Salman Port, with all other ships, in the wake of USS Cole (DDG 67) bombing in Port of Aden, Yemen in October 2000.

In the early 1980s, the U.S. Navy began development of a new mine countermeasures (MCM) force, which included two new classes of ships and minesweeping helicopters. The vital importance of a state-of-the-art mine countermeasures force was strongly underscored in the Persian Gulf during the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war and in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.

Avenger class ships are designed as mine sweepers/hunter-killers capable of finding, classifying, and destroying moored and bottom mines. These ships use sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine detonating device that can be released and detonated by remote control. They are also capable of conventional sweeping measures. The ships are fiberglass sheathed, wooden hull construction.

Eight MCM remain in service to the fleet and are forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan and Manama, Bahrain.