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First US destroyer to forward-deploy to Japan bids farewell after 25 years

USS Curtis Wilbur concludes 25 years in Japan
USS Curtis Wilbur departs Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 18, 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) bid farewell to the Yokosuka naval base, Japan, on August 18, after spending 25 years there as a forward-deployed ship to US 7th Fleet.

Curtis Wilbur arrived in Yokosuka, Japan in September 1996 and operated in the Indo-Pacific while assigned to Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and US 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. The destroyer is en route to San Diego, scheduled for routine maintenance and operations as a part of US 3rd Fleet.

“As the first Aegis destroyer forward-deployed to Japan, Curtis Wilbur leaves behind a legacy of warfighting excellence and operational performance that set the standard for every destroyer that followed,” said Capt. Chase Sargeant, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71. “For the last 25 years, the ‘Steel Hammer of the Fleet’ boldly sailed the Indo-Pacific as part of the long grey line of warships of Destroyer Squadron Fifteen that maintained the freedom of the seas and protection of our national interests.”

Curtis Wilbur’s numerous years in US 7th Fleet included many highlights across all warfare areas and helped forge lasting relationships with partner nations and allies in the region. The ship participated in multiple bilateral anti-submarine operations with the Republic of Korea Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, to include submarine detection exercises and joint anti-submarine warfare tactics.

Curtis Wilbur integrated with multiple US Navy battle groups, strike groups, and expeditionary strike groups in surface, subsurface, fire support, Ballistic Missile Defense, and air and strike warfare operations. The ship’s most recent operations include enforcing UN sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, routine operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, freedom of navigation operations; and bilateral operations with the Royal Australian Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Additionally, Curtis Wilbur participated in multiple joint operations with the US Army and US Air Force.

Curtis Wilbur also spent time in the US 5th Fleet area of operation conducting maritime interception operations in the Arabian Sea in support of UN resolutions in the region, and later supported Operation Enduring Freedom with the Kitty Hawk Battle Group.

With arrival of USS Higgins (DDG 76) and USS Howard (DDG 83) to their new forward-deployed location in Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan on August 16, Curtis Wilbur is scheduled to join US 3rd Fleet, which leads naval forces in the Indo-Pacific.