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.