After a two-year hiatus, the fleet is returning to New York, though with a somewhat smaller contingent. This year, Navy, Coast Guard, and Royal Navy ships will be gathering on Manhattan’s West Side and at Staten Island’s Stapleton Pier—no ships coming to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, unfortunately. And due to the schedule of the tides, the parade of ships on May 25 will be very year this year; expect the ships to pass through the Narrows by 7:30am, and the ships expect to be at their berths by 8:30am.
Below is our annual guide to some of the units that will be in town—be sure to check out full schedule of events posted by the New York Council Navy League. If you can’t make out to all of these spots during the week, join us on Memorial Day for our Fleet Week Harbor Tour with our friends at Classic Harbor Line, where we will cruise past all the docking locations, get a waterside view of the ships aboard a beautiful motor yacht, and discuss the rich naval history of the harbor.
Manhattan Pier 88
- Ships open for visitors May 26–28, May 30, 8am–5pm
The big ship coming to town is USS Bataan (LHD-5), an amphibious assault ship based in Norfolk, VA. Bataan last visited for Fleet Week in 2016, followed by its sister ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in 2017. These Wasp-class ships are part of what’s called the “Gator Navy,” amphibious ships designed to deliver Marines from sea to shore by water and air. Also called a “big deck amphib,” Bataan resembles an aircraft carrier, but all of its aircraft are vertical take-off, including helicopters, as well as MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors, legacy AV-8 Harrier II’s, and the new F-35B Lightning II (though its unclear which aircraft will be embarked when the ship arrives). Each Wasp or successor America-class ship is the centerpiece of an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) that are deployed around the world; with the loss of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) to a fire while undergoing maintenance in San Diego in 2020, the resources of the Navy are stretched even thinner.
Manhattan Pier 90
- Ships open for visitors May 26–28, May 30, 8am–5pm
One of the coolest (literally) ships to visit this year is the Royal Navy’s HMS Protector (A173), a polar ice patrol ship. Built in Norway as MV Polarbjørn, a commercial charter vessel, the Royal Navy first chartered it in 2011, then purchased it two years later. It is the main support vessel for the British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s permanent research presence in the Antarctic, and it supports other international research stations in the region. Though not a heavy icebreaker—it’s rated to navigate ice up to 20 inches thick—it is a large and versatile ship that we’re excited to explore. By comparison, the US Coast Guard icebreaker assigned to the Antarctic, USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) can navigate ice six feet thick, and break up to 21-foot sea ice (though the ship is over 40 years old an in desperate need of replacement).
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Ships closed to the public
Four of the Naval Academy’s Yard Patrol Boats will be joining this year’s festivities (pictured at the top of the page). These 119-foot vessels are used to teach midshipmen basic seamanship skills.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) was originally slated to dock at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, but it looks like this visit has been cancelled. No news yet on why this happened, but considering that these are the most versatile and overworked ships in the Navy, it was not a huge surprise.
Staten Island Homeport
- Ships open for visitors May 26–30, 8am–5pm
We have a repeat visitor from the last Fleet Week in 2019, Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Milwaukee (LCS-5). No disrespect to the sailors that serve on them, but these are perhaps the worst designed ships in the US Navy in over 100 years. Designed with the assumption that America would never again face a peer threat at sea, the ships are under-gunned, highly sinkable, and built with a system of swappable mission modules that has never worked. They also have a barely-functional propulsion system; Milwaukee is one of five ships that have suffered major breakdowns in the combining gear, which connects the diesel and turbine engines.
Their design and operation has been so disastrous that in their latest budget request for fiscal year 2023, the Navy’s top brass has proposed decommissioning nine of the ships. The lead ship of the class was already decommissioned in 2021, and the newest, USS St. Louis (LCS-19) entered service less than two years ago. The Navy hopes to save $3.6 billion by removing the ships from service, but they collectively cost close to $5 billion, plus around $70 million per ship per year to operate. And in the end, the Navy has literally nothing to show for it except two lost decades as the fleet continues shrink while its operating tempo increases. Later this year, New York will host its first commissioning of a Navy ship since 2009, when USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) will visit; hopefully it will have a longer service life, as the Navy and builders Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Lockheed Martin claim to have resolved the combining gear problem.
New York is no stranger to black-hulled Coast Guard ships, which handle missions related to navigation, but we don’t have any ships locally like USCGC Sycamore (WLB-209). A 225-foot Juniper-class buoy tender, Sycamore is much larger than ships like Bayonne-based USCGC Katherine Walker (WLM-552), being 50 feet longer and more than double the displacement. These Juniper ships manage aids to navigation farther out to sea and in much rougher conditions than New York Harbor; Sycamore is based out of Newport, RI, but most of the rest are on the Pacific Coast and the Great Lakes. Alongside will be USCGC Dependable (WMEC-626), one of the 210-foot Reliance-class medium-endurance cutters that have been workhorses for the Coast Guard since the 1960s. Commissioned in 1964–1969, these 16 ships remain in service (though one is now in the Sri Lankan Navy and another in the Colombian Navy), and they are all older than any ship in the US Navy, save USS Constitution. Though they underwent upgrades in the 1990s, their 50-year-old hulls require a lot of TLC, and they are regular visitors to the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s GMD Shipyard.