The first purpose built at-sea platform for mine countermeasure (MCM) helicopters and special operations forces (SOF) is set to be christened at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif. on Saturday, according to the company.
The Afloat Forward Staging Base – USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/ASFB-1) – will be formally named in a ceremony at NASSCO ahead of an anticipated delivery to U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) in September.
U.S. Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford will speak at the ceremony.
The ship is the third NASSCO ship to be based on an Alaska-class crude carrier designed to provide at-sea support for the Navy’s MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helos and for SOF forces.
The first two ships have been designated Mobile Landing Platforms (MLP) and will operate as an interface between MSC cargo ships and Navy landing craft to expand the projection power of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The two planned ships in the class plan to be forward deployed assets for the Navy – one to the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Middle East and one to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Pacific.
The Navy currently employs the Austin-class LPD, USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15), as a Middle East AFSB.
In December, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded NASSCO $498 million to start construction on the second AFSB.