USS Thach decommissioned at Navy Base San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

USS Thach decommissioned at Navy Base San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The guided-missile frigate USS Thach was decommissioned in a ceremony at Navy Base San Diego Friday morning.

The Thach is the seventh frigate to be retired this year. The type of vessel is being replaced by the new littoral combat ships, which are designed for combat in coastal waters.

"From conducting counter-narcotics operations to maintaining freedom on the high seas, the ship has been through a lot in its 29 years of extraordinary service to our country's Navy," said Cmdr. Hans Lynch, Thach's commanding officer.

Lynch said his tour as commanding officer has been very rewarding, especially during the ship's final deployment conducting counter-narcotics operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility. The sailors seized 379 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of more than $10 million, according to the Navy.

"I am grateful for the crew's dedication to the mission," Lynch said. "It is an honor to be the decommissioning commanding officer of a wonderful ship."

Around 35 of the Thach's Oliver Hazard Perry class of frigates have already been decommissioned, according to the Navy. Leaders in the sea-going service consider the new littoral combat ships to be more versatile since they're of a modular design and can be outfitted to handle various missions.

However, the LCS program has been plagued with manufacturing and maintenance problems. The publication Stars and Stripes reported this week that one of the few to become operational -- the San Diego-based USS Freedom, which is deployed to Asia -- is being repaired in Japan after seawater contamination was discovered in a water-jet hydraulic system.

The 453-foot-long Thach is named for the late Admiral John S. "Jimmy" Thach, a Navy aviator during World War II.

Thach was stationed in San Diego when he invented a dog fighting tactic known as the Thach Weave. The tactic, which involves two or more fighter pilots working together to cross paths two or more times in order to turn the tables on an enemy attack, allowed Navy pilots to overcome the maneuverability advantage of Japanese aircraft.

Members of Thach's family attended the ceremony. Navy officials said more would have come, but a family member was graduating from the Marine East Coast boot camp at Perris Island, N.C.

Several current and former crew members also were on hand, including those who served on the first crew -- who are called "plank owners."

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