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USS Defender (MCM-2)

USS Defender (MCM-2)

The USS Defender (MCM-2) was a naval Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship constructed at Marinette Mariner Corp. In Marinette Wisconsin.  The USS Defender was the second of 14 new Avenger class mine countermeasures ships designed to be used as ocean minesweepers assisting US naval fleet operations around the globe. [6]  The development of the Avenger Class ships came about as the United States Navy began in the 1980s to develop their mine countermeasures program to improve mine-warfare capabilities which would make amphibious assaults more accessible and provide the US Navy access to currently restricted waters around the globe.  This development produced two new classes of ships, the Avenger as well as the Cardinal class, as well as mine-sweeping helicopters and three new mine types. [6]

The formal commencement of construction for the USS Defender was on December 11983 and it was later completed and launched on April 4, 1987.  The USS Defender was 224 ft long, the hull was constructed of laminated wood structure with composite fiberglass exterior sheathing.  The reason for using this material in the hull was due to the fact that wood and glass have low magnetic and acoustic signatures and are strong yet lightweight and capable of withstanding blasts from detonated mines. [8] When the ship was fully loaded it weighed in at 1250 long tons.  The ship is powered by four main diesel propulsion Waukesha L-1616 engines and carries surface search radar and variable-depth mine hunting sonar.  Armament Included six 50 cal. Machine guns, four 7.62mm machine guns and two Mk 19 grenade launchers. [8] The Avenger class ships were to crew 6 officers and 76 enlisted. With all of this intact the USS Defender, like the other Avenger class naval ships, was capable of hunting down, classifying, and destroying naval mines. [6]

On October, 2014 the USS Defender was officially decommissioned after 25 years of service. The USS Defender was assigned four different home ports in its time in service, Little Creek, VA, Ingleside, TX, San Diego, CA, and Sasebo, Japan.  Serving from these four home ports allowed the Defender to participate in deployments with the United States Naval 3rd, 6th, and 7th fleets.   Throughout its lifetime the USS Defender took part in multiple NATO exercises, assisted in a Search and Rescue operation, responded to a distress call saving the lives of eight civilians, assisted in the post Hurricane Katrina efforts, took part in countless training exercises, received four Battle ‘E’ Awards, and two Secretary of the Navy letters of commendation. [2]

In February 1993 the USS Defender left its home port of Ingleside, Texas and deployed to the United States 6th Fleet area of responsibility.  While on this 6-month deployment the USS Defender participated in two NATO Exercises, Blue Harrier ’93 and Linked Seas ’93.  NATO operation Linked Seas ’93 was a large scale, ten day exercise near Lisbon, Portugal between the north of Portugal and the Strait of Gibraltar. [7]  Twelve nations participated sending thousands of men, 66 vessels, and 25 types of aircraft to prepare naval and air forces for rapid deployment of peacekeeping missions.  The exercise specifically centered on training to combat air, surface, and submarine warfare.  The USS Defender’s objective was specifically to help pursue anti-mine warfare tactics. [7]

Again in 1995 the USS Defender deployed from Ingleside on a five month deployment to the US 6th Fleet of Operations in which it once again participated in NATO Exercise Blue Harrier ’95 and also participated in Alcudra ’95.  The Blue Harrier Nato exercise was a mine countermeasures exercise for mine-warfare that took place off the coast of Denmark in the Baltic-Approaches that incorporated the participation of seven nations.  During its participation in Blue Harrier 95’ the USS Defender was assigned to the United Kingdom Naval Squadron MCM 1 and exceptionally cleared its assigned area receiving a 24-hour port stay as a reward for its performance.  Later in the exercise the Defender worked with the HMS Ledbury to clear a nasty minefield.  Initially the efforts were discouraging but the USS Defender was eventually able to clear the field and complete the exercise with a perfect record. [3]  Later that year the Defender joined with the USS Warrior met with the Standing Naval Force Channel in Palma de Mallorca for NATO exercise Alcudra ’95.  The Alcudra exercise was new to the USS Defender and its crew as it was tasked with team mine-sweeping.  Although a new experience, the Defender held its own as it successfully swept all three of the moored mines (mines set to float just below the surface of the water) in its assigned area.  The exercise finished after switching focus to hunting bottom mines, a task in which one of the Defender’s engines was terminally damaged due to a crack the block.  Alcudra ’95 was the final major task undertaken by the Defender in this trip out to the 6th Fleet area of operation. It joined with three other MCM’s to make the journey back to the United States. [3]

In 1996 the USS Defender got to use its mine-countermeasure capabilities to assist the USS Gladiator in responding to an emergency Coast Guard search and rescue call of a downed Navy T-44 aircraft.   The decision was made to utilize the ship’s sonar in the search effort and the USS Defender was ultimately the ship to determine the location of the downed aircraft. [5] Over the next few years Defender participated in Gulf of Mexico Exercises (GOMEX) 97-2, 98-1, 00-1, and 02-4 a quarterly exercise for mine countermeasure units in the Gulf of Mexico to bring air, surface, and underwater MCM units together to prepare for battle group fleet operations. [9]  Defender also participated in Squadron Exercises 98-1, RONEX 00-1 and RONEX 02-1.  Also during this time the the USS Defender continued to participate in NATO and mine warfare readiness group exercises, as well as making numerous port visits all over the eastern coast of the US, Canada, and the Great Lakes region of the United States. [4]

In 2004 the Defender deployed from Ingleside to serve in the 3rd Fleet area of responsibility. While on this deployment the USS Defender took part in the multinational exercise titled Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004.  The purpose of RIMPAC, which was a mass joint operation involving seven nations and 18,000 military members near the Hawaiian Islands was to improve multinational cooperation and cohesion. [10] Forty ships between the seven nations combined to test and enhance their capabilities in their respected fields from nuclear-powered carriers to minesweeping ability.  The members of the RIMPAC 2004 operation team up to improve allied abilities in continuing the fight on terrorism from testing amphibious assaults to sinking enemy vessels.  RIMPAC 2004 was the 19th instalment of the event which first occurred in 1971. [10]

USS DEFENDER (MCM-2) Badge (Retrieved From

In 2005 the ship and crew took part in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts helping to locate debris near New Orleans.  The  USS Defender working alongside the USS Gladiator, USS Scout, USS Falcon, and, the Helicopter Mine Countermeasures  Squadron began operations on September 10, 2005 to employee their sonar and sweeping tools to assist in surveying  938 nautical miles near the Louisiana coast and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) which handled 13 percent of  the nation’s foreign oil. [1] The purpose of using mine countermeasure ships and teams was to locate any leaks and then  evaluate the associated environmental impacts.  After completing this task the Defender switched focus to the transit  lanes of the Gulf Coast to clear waters to a depth of 65ft and locate anything hazardous to shipping lines like sunken or  submerged boats, buses, or houses that may have been left there in the waste of the storm. [1]

On June 3, 2009 the USS Defender began the next and final stage of its life as it was offloaded from the heavy lift ship Condock IV at Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan which became its new home port later that year in December. In October 2009 the Defender became the first US Navy ship to visit Miyanoura, Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture while on a 3-day port visit at the island which is located 225 miles south of the Japanese Mainland.  While at this home port Defender participated in multiple training exercise and made multiple extended trips on Pacific patrol before finally departing the Sasebo, Japan for the final time on July 12, 2014. [4]

The final journey for the USS Defender took the ship and crew from Sasebo, Japan back to San Diego, California in which it was officially decommissioned on October 1, 2014, ending its 25 years of service.  In its time in service the USS Defender had 18 different commanding officers, participated in NATO exercises, naval training exercises, search and rescue, port visits, and the Hurricane Katrina relief effort to highlight a few of the major activities.  Defender also received four Battle “E” Awards which are also known as the Battle Effectiveness Award.  This award is granted to a ship that shows “sustained superior performance in an operational environment, and sustained continuous readiness throughout the Fleet Response Training Plan (FRTP).” The United States Navy goes on to explain the Battle “E” Award as “an award for being the best ship in the organization.” [11] Along with these awards came two secretary of the Navy letters of Commendation.  Despite the 25 years of service for the United States of America, the USS Defender, like many old pieces of unused equipment, it was dismantled and disposed of by scrapping. [2]  The ship’s disposal officially brought the ship full circle from its creation in Marinette, Wisconsin to ending its life in San Diego, California.

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