Mine Countermeasures Support Ship
The Inchon was removed from service in 2001 after a fire caused extensive damage to its engine room. The Navy's only mine warfare command ship, the Inchon was decommissioned on 20 June 2002. One sailor was killed, one was critically injured and six others sustained less serious injures during the 19 October 2001 fire in the USS Inchon's engine room. The crew had lighted the ship's boilers as part of the exercise when the fire started, but the fire did not start in the boilers. On 30 October 2001 the Navy had announced that the Inchon was scheduled to be retired in 2005, but the fire led the Navy to decide to retire the ship earlier. The Inchon cost about $43 million each year to staff and operate.
Inchon [LPH-12] was initially a helicopter ship of the Iwo Jima class. Only Inchon remaine in service after 1998, having been converted to a Mine Countermeasures Ship [MCS]. There was initially some confusion over the new designation in this role. Since MCS-7 Epping Forest was the previous class of this type, Inchon could have been renumbered as MCS-8, but in fact the numbers MCS-8 through MCS-11 were skipped so that Inchon could keep her original hull number, being redesignated from LPH-12 to MCS-12.
The USS INCHON (MCS 12) is a unique, dedicated Naval ship configured to support to a wide range of air, surface and subsurface mine countermeasures missions worldwide. The mission of the Mine Countermeasures Support Ship (MCS) is to provide dedicated command, control, and support services to the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Commander and his airborne, surface and Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) MCM assets. To accomplish the mission, USS INCHON has the capability to:
- Embark the MCM Commander and staff.
- Provide integrated command and control for all MCM forces including communication and data interface with Amphibious and Battle Force Commanders.
- Embark and operate a tailored airborne MCM squadron (8 MH-53e Helicopters) and a SAR/Spotter Aircraft Detachment (2 CH-46 Helicopters).
- Embark EOD MCM Detachments.
- Transport remote Minehunting and Minesweeping vessels.
- Provide general logistic support and intermediate level maintenance support for embarked airborne MCM squadrons, EOD MCM detachments and to assigned surface MCM ships.
- Provide medical augmentation with an emergency response and stabilization team.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm identified the need for a dedicated command, control and support ship to support mine countermeasures operations. The contract to convert Inchon was awarded in November 1994 to Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc., Pascagoula, Miss. USS Inchon was converted from an amphibious assault ship with major changes made to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system including upgrades to the close-in weapons system (Phalanx) and various radars.
The ship supports an embarked composite helicopter squadron of eight CH-53E and two SAR/spotter helicopters, and provides alongside support and services for up to four MCM/MHC ships. It can support and accommodate four Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) groups with assigned equipment. Additionally it provides C4I facilities for the MCM group commander. The MCS possesses the latest state-of-the-art communications systems/equipment. The shared use of equipment with parallel/redundant capacity and RF links maximize efficiency to support the MCM Group Commander and his staff. The communication suite allows operation in frequency bands from LF through SHF. New repair facilities and upgrades to older one were also added, giving the MSC 12 the ability to accomplish whatever repairs are necessary to weapons, LCACs, aircraft, etc., in any theater of operation. The ships crew is composed of both regular and naval reserve personnel. The number of personnel assigned to ship may vary depending on mission need. Habitability spaces were re-designed to accomodate a crew of 10% female and 90% male.
USS INCHON was named in honor of the highly successful amphibious landing at INCHON, Korea on September 15, 1950, by General Douglas MacAuthur. One of a series of seven Helicopter Carriers built by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, MS, she is the first ship to ever bear the name. The ship was specifically designed to conduct amphibious force landings by providing helicopter support to transport troops and assist in establishing air superiority in the designated landing area. Helicopter detachments that embarked aboard INCHON included the CH-53E Super Stallions, CH-46 Sea Knights, UH-1 Hueys and AH-1 Cobras. Additionally, a U. S. Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team (BLT) consisting of 2,000 troops and their equipment, embarked for INCHON's deployments.
INCHON's weapon systems include .50 caliber guns, MK-38 25mm Chain Guns, two Vulcan Phalanx, Close-in Weapon's Systems, providing anti-ship cruise missile defense. The ship is powered by a modern, clean-burning 600 psi steam system which develops 23,000 shaft horsepower and can propel the ship up to speeds of 23 knots. Virtually all compartment are air conditioned and the ship's store, laundry, and barber shop represent vast improvements over older counterparts.
USS INCHON has previously deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, and North Atlantic, performing various amphibious operations and exercises. In 1972, INCHON sailed on a world cruise from Norfolk, VA, went through the Panama Canal enroute to Vietnam. After participating in Operation End Sweep, to remove mines from the North Vietnamese harbors, the INCHON returned to the U.S. via the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic.
In 1994, Inchon deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean to conduct Operation Continue Hope off the coast of Somalia and Operation Deny Flight off the coast of Bosnia. Following a six-month deployment, Inchon remained in homeport for only two weeks before it was called upon to assist in Operation Support Democracy off the coast of Haiti. In March 1995, Inchon commenced a 15-month conversion/overhaul by Ingalls Shipbuilding to assume a new mission as the Navy's only mine countermeasures command and support ship.
In July 1996, INCHON changed home ports to Ingleside, Texas, home of the U.S. Navy's Mine Warfare Center of Excellence. From March-July 1997, INCHON made her first deployment in her new capacity, successfully demonstrating her capabilities during the EURO 97, North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea deployment. Following closely on the heels of her intradeployment training cycle which included participation in NATO's largest minewarfare exercise MARCOT/Unified Spirit 98, INCHON once again deployed. During the INCHON TASK GROUP 99-1 Deployment, the crew provided critical heavy lift support to Operation Shining Hope, part of the humanitarian relief effort for Kosovar refugees in the Balkans.
In April 2001, Inchon set out for what would be its last deployment. It steamed 28,000 nautical miles to the Western Pacific Ocean, accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours, conducted seven replenishments at sea, visited seven ports on three continents, evaded a typhoon, and made 27 restricted transits including two separate trips through the complex waters of the Panama Canal.
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