The guided-missile destroyer Bulkeley left Norfolk, Virginia, Thursday for its new homeport in Rota, Spain — one of several recent shifts to the destroyer fleet based there.

The homeport change, which aligns with the Navy’s plan to rotate out the destroyers based in Rota, also comes as the service aims to bolster its destroyer fleet in Spain from four to six warships in the next several years.

The Bulkeley joins destroyers Arleigh Burke, Roosevelt, Paul Ignatius and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 79 as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe assets homeported in Rota.

The guided-missile destroyers Ross and Porter are also currently based in Rota, but they are slated to shift homeports to Norfolk as part of the FDNF-E rotation in the next few months once the Bulkeley arrives in the 6th Fleet.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear which additional two ships will head to Rota. Officials with the Italy-based U.S. 6th Fleet told Navy Times in June that the two other destroyers wouldn’t arrive in Rota until at least fiscal 2024.

According to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the beefed up destroyer fleet “will help increase the United States’ and NATO’s maritime presence and all the relevant maritime domains in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

“The Bulkeley crew has been working extremely hard the past year to prepare to join our forward deployed forces in Rota and work with our partners and allies in the region,” said Capt. Mac Harkin, commanding officer of the Bulkeley, in a Navy news release. “We are excited to join our sister ship and aviation units already at the tip of the spear to assure our allies, respond to threats as required and ensure support to global operations.”

In June, the commanding officer and command master chief of the Bulkeley were relieved due to a “loss of confidence” in their leadership abilities. Harkin has served as the commanding officer since then.

The Bulkeley was commissioned in 2001.

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