Three Navy amphibious ships that left Norfolk ahead of schedule in March are set to stay at sea into February, which would make their cruise the longest ship deployment in decades.
The amphibious assault ship Bataan, the amphibious transport dock ship Mesa Verde and the dock landing ship Whidbey Island left Norfolk Naval Station on March 23, three months earlier than planned because of the unrest in Libya.
The thousands of sailors and Marines aboard the ships were recently told that their deployment will last about 10½ months, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman with Naval Surface Force Atlantic, confirmed Monday. Navy officials and the publication Navy Times, which first reported the extension, said that would make the Bataan group’s cruise the longest in decades. Typical deployments last six to seven months.
After the Bataan group left Norfolk, it spent three weeks training in the Atlantic. The ships then steamed to the Mediterranean, where the Bataan relieved the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, which was involved in early strikes into Libya. The Kearsarge spent 8½ months at sea before coming home in May; it left Norfolk ahead of schedule to help flood victims in Pakistan.
In August, the Bataan arrived in the Arabian Gulf for its planned deployment, replacing the West Coast-based Boxer.
Since leaving Norfolk, each of the ships in the Bataan group has spent about a month in port in various cities. The Bataan has had four port visits, the Mesa Verde five, and the Whidbey Island six.