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USS Milius to boost 7th Fleet’s destroyer numbers in late May

The guided-missile destroyer USS Milius arrives at its homeport in San Diego in 2015. (RYAN BATCHELDER/U.S. NAVY PHOTO)
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The Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet will add another guided-missile destroyer to its ranks this summer.

The USS Milius is scheduled to depart its San Diego homeport Friday and arrive at Yokosuka in late May, a Navy statement said. The assignment is part of the Navy’s goal of sending its most advanced and capable ships to the Pacific region.

“Destroyers are capable of sustained combat operations supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence,” the statement said. “Maintaining the most technologically advanced ships is vital to support the United States’ commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”

The Milius was supposed to arrive in Japan last year; however, the Navy announced in July that the destroyer’s deployment would be delayed so it could be outfitted with the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system.

The upgrade boosts the ship’s air-defense, missile-defense, surface-warfare and undersea-warfare capabilities, the Navy said. The Yokosuka-based destroyers USS Barry and USS Benfold have the same system.

The Milius’ arrival will be a welcome addition for 7th Fleet, which is short two destroyers after fatal collisions last year that killed 17 sailors and severely damaged the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain. Both ships have an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System that allows them to intercept short-and intermediate-range missiles.

Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift told Stars and Stripes last year that the Milius was being sent to Japan to alleviate 7th Fleet’s workload, not to replace the collision-damaged destroyers.

“I am concerned about the number of ships that we have out here,” he said. “Milius was coming out to help get us down to the [operations] tempo that we can really sustain. We’ve got such an incredible amount of work out here that I need Milius plus another ship to backfill behind Fitzgerald.”

Swift is looking for a ship to take over for the Fitzgerald — which is undergoing repairs in Pascagoula, Miss. — and is considering vessels outside the 7th Fleet, but has declined to name any candidates.

The Milius is no stranger to Pacific waters. In October, it participated in a two-day trilateral missile-defense exercise alongside the Yokosuka-based USS Stethem and warships from South Korea and Japan. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the annual LINKEX drills near Japan help the allies detect and track North Korean missiles.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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