A key component of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps new sea basing strategy has completed its first round of sea trials, Naval Sea Systems Command officials told USNI News on Monday.
The 80,000-ton Mobile Landing Platform Montford Point (T-MLP-1) completed builder’s trials near San Diego, Calif. last week. in anticipation of U.S. Military Sealift Command acceptance trials planned for mid-April, Lt. Kurt Larson, with NAVSEA, said.
Montford Point, designed as an open ocean staging area to transfer men and material from MSC cargo ships to Navy hovercraft and the new Joint High Speed Vessel, conducted engine trials and tests of the ships unique ballasting system.
Built by General Dynamics NASSCO and based on the design of an Alaska-class oil tanker, the MLP is designed to lower itself in the water to allow Navy landing craft to transport up to a M1A Abrams main battle tank to a landing area.
Eventually the ship will allow MSC large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships to transfer equipment in up to Sea State 3 conditions, according to information from NAVSEA. Builder’s trials did not include tests with Navy hovercraft or LMSR ships, Larson said.
Montford Point is the first of three MLPs. The second John Glenn is “58 percent” complete and plans for a March 2014 delivery. The third is planned to be the next-generation Afloat Forward Staging Base to replace the USS Ponce in U.S. Central Command. Unlike the MLPs, the AFSB will likely feature a full deck and be used as a sea base for mine countermeasure helicopters and special operations forces.
The MLPs are part of a Navy and Marine plan to allow a greater level of sea-based operations, reducing pressure on the services’ Amphibious Ready Groups and Marine Expeditionary Units. A 1990s plan of a custom built maritime pre-positioning ships for the sea basing role was scrapped in favor a smaller group of ships centered on a redesigned, less-expensive MLP design.