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Updated: Keel Laid for First Dedicated Afloat Forward Staging Base

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An artist's conception of the Afloat Forward Staging Base. USMC Photo

An artist’s conception of the Afloat Forward Staging Base. USMC Photo

Clarification: A previous version of this post included an out-of-date artist’s conception of the Lewis B. Puller.

General Dynamics NASSCO laid the keel for the U.S. Navy’s first dedicated design for an afloat forward staging base (AFSB) on Tuesday in the company’s San Diego, Calif. shipyard, according to the company.

The planned USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) will eventually replace the current AFSB USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15) — currently on patrol in the Persian Gulf — by 2015, according to the Navy.

Based on the hull of an Alaska-class crude oil tanker, Puller will act as a low cost base for mine counter measure (MCM) helicopters and special operations forces. The 764-foot ship will field an extremely large helicopter deck and accommodations for up to 250.

Born from a long-standing request from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the AFSB is a low cost option to deploy forces for low-intensity operations without tying up the resources of an asset that costs more to operate.

The Navy plans to eventually field two AFSBs, likely one in the Middle East and a second in the Pacific.

Both MLPs and AFSBs will be operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC).

  • leesea

    The MLP is a re-purposed tanker that has distinct limitations as a semi-submersible ship (IOW old technology) .The AFSB does NOT need to be based on the MLP ship design. Except as corporate welfare for NASSCO.

    Where are the rqmts for AFSB stated? Certainly its flight deck is NOT very large and restricted by the structures fore and aft. Are those small hangars forward for a/c based on this huge ship? There are little details about small craft handling or weapons or sensors.

    This ship may cost upwards of $500 million which in NO way is a good “should cost” value. An AFSB based on MLP is far too large, too slow to be considered anything other than a Large Slow Target (thereby taking over the old LST name)

    • Yoni Livni

      is it right to say that, this is a quasi helo-carrier ?