As Memorial Day approaches, that can only mean one thing – it’s Fleet Week in NYC! Here’s our annual guide to some of the units that will be in town – be sure to check out the full schedule of events on the official Fleet Week NYC website. If you can’t make out to all of these spots this 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 four docking locations and get a waterside view of the ships aboard a beautiful motor yacht.
Manhattan Pier 90
- Ships open for visitors May 24–28, 8am–5pm
The biggest ship in town this week will be the USS Arlington (LPD-24), a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock. These amphibs have been regular sights at Fleet Week for years, and this will mark at least the third different San Antonio that has visited New York. We have a special affection for the “Gator Navy,” as these amphibious ships are known, because the Brooklyn Navy Yard built six predecessor LPDs in the 1960’s. Some of those ships were used to recover spacecraft in the Gemini and Apollo programs, a tradition that Arlington has continued, assisting in test launches of the new Orion manned space capsule.
Alongside Arlington will be the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Moncton (MM-708), a small minesweeper that also visited for Fleet Week in 2016, and the third year in a row that our Canadian cousins will be visiting. While it’s fun to climb aboard a big ship, you can often get a more intimate experience by touring the smaller vessels; because the crews are smaller, everybody has to know every inch of the ship, not just the section or duty they are assigned to.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Ships open for visitors May 24, 10am–3pm, and May 25–28, 10am–5pm
We have been lucky the past couple of years to be able to see some of the new ships in the Coast Guard. Last year we visited the beefy National Security Cutter USCGC Hamilton, and this year we will get the newest ship in the fleet, USCGC Richard Snyder (WPC-1127), a Sentinel-class First Response Cutter that was commissioned just one month ago. These ships will eventually replace the aging fleet of Island-class cutters. Interestingly, the Sentinels are not a homegrown design, but licensed from Dutch shipbuilder Damen and built in Louisiana, a rare example by the US military of using proven, off-the-shelf designs instead of costly new development (though they still cost about $65 million each).
There will also be the usual complement of Yard Patrol Boats manned by midshipmen from the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Red Hook
- Ships open for visitors May 24–28, 10am–5pm
The backbone of the US Navy is the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. This ships are so well-designed, adaptable, and reliable that the Navy has foregone its futuristic supership, the Zumwalt class, in favor of restarting production of the Burkes. USS Mitscher (DDG-57) is one of the oldest in the fleet, a “Flight I” design that has been in service since 1994.
While you’re in Red Hook, be sure to stop by the Mary Whalen, a historic taken ship that is permanently moored in the nearby Atlantic Basin. The ship just celebrated its 80th birthday, and the educational organization that operates it, Portside NewYork, has a whole host of programs this week, including a storytelling night on Thursday about Puerto Ricans and the working waterfront. Be sure to visit their Red Hook Water Stories portal before you come to learn more about the neighborhood’s history and nearby things to do.
Staten Island Homeport
- Ships open for visitors May 24–28, 8am–5pm
As usual, Stapleton will be the place to be, with a flotilla of four ships, but also some of the most interesting. Among them will be the USNS Maury (T-AGS-66), the newest oceanographic research ship in the Military Sealift Command. Two Coast Guard cutters will also be in attendance. Diligence (WMEC-616) is a 210-foot cutter, and it is one of the oldest commissioned vessels in the country, in service since 1964. These little workhorses are frequent visitors to the GMD shipyard in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as the federal government tries desperately to keep 50-year-old ships afloat; right now its sister ship Dauntless is in Dry Dock 1. Also at Staten Island will be a local ship, the icebreaker tug Sturgeon Bay (WTGB-109) out of Bayonne, NJ. This ship holds a special place in our heart – not only did we have a great time visiting it in 2015, but our newest team member Ramon Ortiz served on board during his time in the Coast Guard.
For the first time, New York City will be visited by a Littoral Combat Ship, the Freedom-class USS Little Rock (LCS-9). This is one of the newest, and most troubled, hull designs in the Navy. Conceived in the early 2000’s, when military planning was focused on dealing with terrorist and insurgent threats, LCS was thought to be an ideal platform – a small, inexpensive ship designed with a shallow draft, it could to operate with speed close to shore, and it has mission modules that could, in theory, be easily swapped out to change the configuration to mine-sweeping, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, or amphibious assault. The problem is that while terrorism is obviously still a serious threat, the bigger threat to American naval power is peer or near-peer navies. LCS – which also has two completely different designs from different contractors – is under-gunned and eminently sinkable, meaning it’s not very effective if someone is shooting back. In addition, its modules are not so easy to swap out, so the Navy decided to scrap the concept altogether, and it’s now trying to “up-gun” the ship to make it a true warfighter. Since launching, the ships have also faced engineering problems – three of five ships have had catastrophic engine failures, while Little Rock only recently escaped from Montreal, after being trapped in ice there for three months just weeks after its commissioning.
Navy Dive Tank in Times Square
- Open for visitors May 24–26, 10am–5pm
Navy divers from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 will have a demonstration tank set up in Times Square, where you can talk to the sailors, try on equipment, and even play tic-tac-toe with them while they’re swimming in the tank. And after you’ve seen these divers in action, be sure to pick up a copy of Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan’s novel about a Navy diver of a very different sort in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II.
SUNY Maritime College & US Merchant Marine Academy
- Ships closed to the public
Like last year, two ships we desperately want to visit will be inaccessible to the public. You can read our thoughts from last year’s blog entry about the invaluable Cyclone-class ships like USS Zephyr, which is stopping by Kings Point. SUNY Maritime College will again get a Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport, but this time it will be the awkwardly-named City of Bismarck (T-EPF-9) – named just so people don’t get confused and think that we are naming our Navy ships after Imperial German chancellors or Nazi battleships.
Turnstile Tours offers several tours that highlight New York’s waterfront, past and present, including tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal. We also offer guided boat cruises with Classic Harbor Line about the military and industrial history of the harbor.