For the last several years, it has seemed that the Navy had all but abandoned the drug interdiction effort, and actual US Navy ships in the Fourth Fleet Area of Operations (Latin America) were very rare. That seems to be changing.
USS Detroit (LCS-7) deployed on Oct. 31, 2019 and returned to Mayport for a crew swap on Feb. 2, 2020. She had operated with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and an aviation detachment including a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and two MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles. She is expected to redeploy to Fourth Fleet after the crew swap and a short maintenance period.
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) departed Mayport, FL, on Feb. 6, for operations with Fourth Fleet. Sounds like Little Rock, unlike Detroit, may try to do a crew swap away from homeport.
“Little Rock will also demonstrate its operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. While in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions, the ship will rotate deployments of two crews, Blue and Gold, who will rotate aboard every four to five months, maintaining consistency and allowing a continuous presence in the region.”
As a side note, the USS Little Rock is equipped with Laser weapon. Military and naval officers from friendly nations ought to find that interesting.
SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller is hoping to do more than just drug enforcement. He hopes to counter Chinese and Russian influence in Latin America. He also plans to exercise small scale Marine operations with these ships, in cooperation with the militaries of friendly nations.
There are some other interesting developments.
“…SOUTHCOM is in line for an Expeditionary Staging Base, the converted commercial tanker design that acts as a lily pad for mine-counter measures and special operations forces in U.S. Central Command. The command also is currently operating a Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), which it is also using for presence, partner-building and counter-trafficking work. SOUTHCOM also claimed successes with the deployment of the Military Sealift Command ship M/V Kellie Chouest. The support ship deployed with a military detachment aboard and an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide additional capacity, to supplement the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters for the interdiction mission….SOUTHCOM is pitching a plan to turn a Spearhead EPF into an LCS tender to keep the ships on station longer rather than going back to shore regularly for maintenance.”