Home » Budget Industry » Afloat Forward Staging Base Lewis B. Puller Delivers to Navy


Afloat Forward Staging Base Lewis B. Puller Delivers to Navy

The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard on Nov. 6, 2014. US Navy Photo

The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard on Nov. 6, 2014. US Navy Photo

The first General Dynamics NASSCO built Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) delivered to the U.S. Navy on Friday, Naval Sea Systems Command said.

USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB) — based on an Alaska-class commercial crude carrier — is designed to host special operations forces (SOF) and mine countermeasure (MCM) helicopters as part of the Navy, U.S. Military Sea Lift Command and the Marines push to more capability for amphibious forces and capacity for seabasing with less expensive ships.

“This ship represents a leap forward in flexible capability for the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Henry Stevens, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager in Program Executive Office, Ships said in a statement.
“NASSCO was able to leverage a mature design and hot production line to meet the Navy’s requirements for an AFSB platform while minimizing program cost and risk.”

The ship is the third based on the Alaska-class following two MSC Mobile Landing Platforms — USNS Montford Point and USNS John Glenn — built to act as an interface between military cargo ships and Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft.

In December, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded NASSCO $498 million to start construction on the second AFSB.

The service is planning to fund a third AFSB as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

The two ships in the class are planned 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 temporary Middle East AFSB.

The following is the June 12, 2015 statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.

SAN DIEGO – The Navy’s first Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant of the Mobile Landing Platform, USNS Lewis B. Puller, delivered to the Navy today. Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, delivery of the ship follows a series of at-sea tests and trials in San Diego.

The Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) AFSB variant is optimized to support a variety of maritime based missions with an added flight deck, berthing, fuel storage, equipment storage, and repair spaces.

“This ship represents a leap forward in flexible capability for the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Henry Stevens, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager in Program Executive Office, Ships. “NASSCO was able to leverage a mature design and hot production line to meet the Navy’s requirements for an AFSB platform while minimizing program cost and risk.”

The MLP program is comprised of five ships across two variants in support of the Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) and an AFSB initiative. USNS Montford Point (MLP 1) and USNS John Glenn (MLP 2) have delivered and are in service. MLP 4, also an AFSB variant, is under construction and a fifth AFSB ship is planned for procurement in fiscal year 2017.

MLPs are highly flexible platforms that provide logistics movement from sea to shore supporting a broad range of military operations. The AFSB variant is designed around four core capabilities: aviation, berthing, equipment staging area, and command and control.

The MLP AFSB will primarily support Aviation Mine Countermeasure and Special Operations missions. Additional features include a large flight deck and hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E equivalent helicopters; berthing and messing accommodations; work spaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force; enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) to support embarked force mission planning; and execution and reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment to include mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and special warfare craft. Delivering high-quality war fighting assets – while balancing affordability and capability – is key to supporting the Navy’s Maritime Strategy.

-NAVSEA-

  • Frank Langham

    Just an offhand quip — It kind of blows my mind that we can buy THREE of these versatile AFSB basing platforms for the cost of one, single F-22 Raptor or that we can have FIVE AFSBs for the cost of one LHD… Sure, you get what you pay for and these “poor-man’s conversions” can hardly be compared to an front-line WASP LHD *BUT*, “bang-for-buck”, these commercial conversions are a STEAL and, furthermore, due to the fact that these platforms are produced at COMMERCIAL shipyards, their production does not interfere with the more limited “production facilities pipelines” which are currently producing more critical battle-group platforms.
    … Any shipyard in the free world can produce these conversions and, so, we can exploit all manner of market advantages while not impeding our legacy production and procurement schedules. … Bottom line ? … Nothing not to love … MORE, please !

    • Ctrot

      The cost I see for Puller is $135 million, that’s about equal to the cost of one F-22.

      • Frank Langham

        I had done a little quick research and the price-per-copy definitely depends upon which agency is reporting and how the unit-cost is defined and amortized. … $135 million is independent of the shared, overall program costs, to be sure. … The same can likely be said, regarding the cost-per-copy, of any ship.
        Regardless … You can have it. … I was merely attempting to highlight the bang-for-buck that this approach offers and we would have done well to utilize commercial conversions, where they make sense, all along.

  • Secundius

    I don’t know, but this sounds like a REALLY STUPID Concept. A Vietnam-era HAL Ship on Steroid’s with NO Defensive Capabilities, other than the Ship it happens to be Supporting At Any Given Time. If a Picture is really worth a Thousand Words, the ONLY word that comes to mind is STUPID…

    • Rob C.

      I think it’s desperate. Have you been following the US Military Track Record of trying to get a full-militarized ship out without having inflated costs? This ship needs to do auxiliary tasks like acting as a mine field base for mine hunters.

      I’m not crazy about having underarmed ship in potential vulnerable situation.
      It comes down to, what can you do and what can you get, while affording it?

      • Secundius

        @ Rob C.

        That’s why I more inclined to Reopening WW2 acquired Island Bases. At least you can Garrison them more properly, Defend them easier, and have a Emergency Landing Strip readily available when needed. Either that, or take Decommissioned Aircraft Carrier’s and Gator-Freighter’s, and give them a Second Lease On Life in a New Role…

        • Frank Langham

          We *DO* agree on THESE points. … The Chinese “get it”, to the point that they are actually dredging and building islands where there were none. … Guam, Wake, Midway, etc. … All of these should be upgraded to serve as Rally-Zones and for caching and staging supplies. … For use as replenishment depots … To fly (rotate) personnel in and out of theater … For repairs and maintenance … As an arsenal (and launch platform) for a roving SEABASE/SEA-SHIELD. … Logistical hop-scotch and a place to fall-back and “circle the wagons”. … Except for a few piers and some expedient air-strips and warehouses, there need not be any elaborate costs involved. … The more we use these “rearward” bases, the more they will evolve and expand (organically).

          • old guy

            The problem, gentlemen, is that in the Navy, you can’t make flag commanding an island base.

          • Frank Langham

            What, exactly do you mean ? …
            Spell it out for me, if you would.

          • old guy

            There is no promotion path (unofficial) that includes command of a land base. It is usually a pre-retirement assignment.

          • Frank Langham

            Yessir … SEALIFT. …
            What about PEARL ? … Are you going to call that a “dud” posting? US SUB Base ? Dam Neck ? … All crucial.
            I would expect SEA BEES would have an influential presence.
            We can certainly take your name out of the hat, if you wish.
            I’ll be happy to take it. (Dancing Gals and all).

          • old guy

            Check. The last 3 Pearl C.O.s retired as Captains. I refer to the base commander, not the any COMxxx.

          • HeywoodJa

            If it’s small enough, it’s written down as an XO ashore gig. There’s ‘command’ and there’s COMMAND.

          • old guy

            Well said.

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            With due respect Sir, I don’t think in the case of the Mobile Landing Platform Ship’s. Because the Vessels are all Merchant Marine Crewed, including the Captain. Flag Rank is NOT in there Work related Future…

          • old guy

            I was referring to a land base (e.g. Pearl Harbor), not a ship

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            I can’t say for the Defenders of Midway Island, because none of them sought Flag Rank at the conclusion of the War. But I Fairly certain that most of those that Served at “Pearl”, did achieve Flag Rank…

          • old guy

            You are right. not Midway, but Guadalcanal, was commanded by “Chesty” Puller who got his stars

          • Secundius

            @ old guy.

            I think your thinking of Major James Devereux, USMC. But he Commanded Wake Island, and was promoted to Brigadier General at the end of the War.

            Cmdr. Cyril Simard, USN was the commanding officer of Midway Island and L.Col. Harold Shannon, USMC., his executive officer. Simard, never achieved Flag Rank. He left the Navy as a Captain and Shannon, left the USMC. as a “Bird” Colonel…

          • Frank Langham

            I can think of ways to leverage a central land posting in a busy theater (without being outright corrupt) … Have you ever heard of a Supply Sergeant who was not powerful and popular ?

          • Secundius

            @ Frank Langham.

            It was the Early Month’s of WW2, Sir. What Corruption are you eluding too…

          • Frank Langham

            Oh … No-no-no … I was not referring to ANY historical accounts of corruption … I was simply saying that I (personally) could leverage such a “locus of activity” EVEN without resorting to illegal or unethical activities (which might prove a temptation, to some) … I was implying that presiding over a Pacific island base-hub would be SWEET duty, to my mind, and that there would be definite, inherent, perks and advantages (in terms of career contacts and favors, etc.).

          • Secundius

            @ Frank Langham.

            I agree the “Black Marketeering” was a problem in WW2, and was usually looked at as a part of doing business. Even with the Enemy, and a 10% cut was usually the “Blind Sighted” agree limited. But on Remote Island Outpost, who are you going to do Business With. Where every Communicate was monitored…

          • Frank Langham

            I could still work the system to get a difficult result for a good friend. That is all I am saying and common sense dictates such.
            A typical scenario is walking the papers through and, perhaps, priming the pump with a phone request for an “EXPEDITE”, etc.
            … If a friendly and somewhat influential “customer” should simply state, “I OWE YOU ONE” … THAT would typically be enough.

          • Frank Langham

            yes

      • Frank Langham

        You are sane, Rob.

    • Frank Langham

      Secundius … You clearly must have some personal stake in trying to make anything that floats into an IMPERIAL BATTLE-MOON … Hope you have ridiculously, unreasonably, deep pockets. … Maybe you can give me a personal loan ? … And, you have hit the nail right on the head. … FEW ships operate independently and, be honest, most modern anti-ship weapons would defeat almost any amount of armor (key word is MODERN, *Old* Chap). … Should we give every support ship in the SEALIFT command battle armor and AAW ? … “STUPID” ?? … I’ll say ! … You know very well that we do not need ANY sort of armor or AAW for almost any sort of the MANY “peaceful” missions OR for ongoing operations, after a “PERMISSABLE” battle-space has been established. … Sure, Einstein, We need some LPD-17 type platforms as the “point-of-the-spear” in the most hostile and denied areas but 90% of the heavy, operational lifting comes AFTER a permissive air-head and surface zone has been secured. … Did we NEED AAW and Armor for ongoing operations in HAITI or any other rescue or humanitarian mission ? … Are Somali Pirates (or Drug Runners) going to be able to defeat a modestly armed AFSB ? … Is (was) The USS Ponce any better armed or armored than an AFSB ? … Did it ever NEED to be, in ALL it’s many days ? (No, Bud). … Face it … You are in “Fight-or-Flight” mode because your entrenched and antiquated sensibilities have been threatened … Time for a “systems update”. … We could be getting MUCH MORE for MUCH LESS and we could be spending those significant savings on REAL (modern) Battle Escorts with all of the bristling weapons and armor that you so crave. … I would rather arm and armor DDGs and FFGs and Arsenal Ships. … We cannot turn every operations platform into “The Bismark” and, you should have realized, by now, that defenses belong on the periphery of any task-group or SEABASE, especially with emerging (OTH) hypersonic swarms, et. al.

    • old guy

      Stupid, shmupid. It fits, PERFECTLY with the other idiotic designs: LH?, LCS and the DD1000. Cocktail party time.

      • Secundius

        @ old guy.

        “Jyutping”, such a way with words, too…

  • old guy

    Chesty must be weeping.

    • Secundius

      @ old guy.

      Your RIGHT, I forgot what his First name was. Maybe someone will open the Sea Valves and Scuttle Her on her Maid Voyage, “To Who No’s Where”…