SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Chief (MCM 14) were loaded onto an ocean-going heavy lift ship as final preparations were made to get underway for their new homeport in Sasebo, Japan May 31.
Pioneer and Chief will be part of forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) assigned to Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7, replacing USS Avenger (MCM 1) and USS Defender (MCM 2), which have been serving the FDNF since 2009.
The two lead ships in the class, Avenger and Defender, were commissioned in 1987 and 1989, respectively. Their service in the U.S. 7th Fleet has included numerous exercises, goodwill exchanges with Japan and the Republic of Korea and training evolutions.
After 25 years of service, Avenger and Defender will return to the U.S. for decommissioning.
Pioneer and Chief will bring improved capability on newer platforms to the Western Pacific and reinforce the U.S. Navy's mission of maintaining safe and free navigation of the seas. Built to detect, identify, and neutralize underwater mine threats, the ships represent a commitment to peace and stability in the increasingly vital Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
After making their home in Sasebo, these ships will regularly operate with their counterparts in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, further strengthening and deepening the alliance. The valuable alliance is fostered through Japan's long-term commitment and hospitality in hosting U.S. forces as well as frequent combined operations.
The hull swap, called an Overseas Force Structure Change, is part of the U.S. Navy's FDNF strategy of rotating newer and more capable units into strategic overseas locations.