Home » Aviation » Navy to Commission Middle East-based Expeditionary Sea Base Lewis B. Puller as a Warship


Navy to Commission Middle East-based Expeditionary Sea Base Lewis B. Puller as a Warship

The Military Sealift Command expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) departs Naval Station Norfolk to begin its first operational deployment on July 10, 2017. Puller is deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. Navy and allied military efforts in the region. US Navy photo.

The Navy will re-designate its first Expeditionary Landing Base ship a warship this week, converting the Military Sealift Command ship USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3) into USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) so it can better meet operational needs abroad, USNI News has learned.

Chesty Puller has already departed Naval Station Norfolk for its maiden deployment and will have a commissioning ceremony in U.S. 5th Fleet tomorrow to formally bring the ship into the Navy’s warship fleet.

“Converting ESB-3 to a commissioned warship (USS) will allow U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet the flexibility needed to meet challenges in the region,” Navy spokesman Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News.
“Potential missions, such as mine-countermeasure operations and special operations forces staging, must be conducted by a warship under the law of armed conflict. In order to provide combatant commanders the maximum amount of flexibility, the Navy decided to commission ESB-3 as a U.S. warship once she arrived in [Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command]/U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.”

Clarke said the ship’s capabilities development document back in 2012 noted that the ship could temporarily commission as a warship if needed for emergent operational requirements. But, he added, “instead of being a temporary change, USNS Lewis B. Puller will be commissioned permanently as a listed warship (USS). Because of the nature of the evolving threats in the region, permanent conversion to USS reduces any ambiguity of ESB-3’s status and eliminates the administrative distraction that a temporary conversion creates while streamlining the command and control process. In 2016, the Navy began the necessary steps to commission the ship as a warship. All echelons, including the Fleet, [Military Sealift Command], the Type Commander, the Combatant Commander, and [chief of naval operations], agreed that permanently commissioning ESB as a warship was the best way forward.”

Additionally, the Navy is studying making the ship a part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Bahrain.

USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3). NASSCO photo.

“ESB-3 is scheduled to return to the United States at least every five years for maintenance availability. The Navy is currently conducting a cost-benefit analysis for making ESB-3 a forward-deployed naval force [ship], which would allow depot-level maintenance beyond voyage repairs to be conducted overseas,” Clarke added.

Puller will join the Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in 5th Fleet. The two will operate together for now, Clarke said, with Ponce eventually leaving theater for a 2018 planned decommissioning in Norfolk. Puller was designed and built to be the permanent replacement for the temporary Ponce – which was converted from an amphibious transport dock (LPD) to an AFSB in 2012 to meet an urgent need in the Middle East.

In addition to supporting mine countermeasures helicopters and special operators in the Middle East, Ponce has gained attention for hosting the Laser Weapon System (LaWS). Though Puller will ultimately replace Ponce as the staging base in theater, the LaWS will not be moved to the new ship.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf on November 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

“While LaWS on Ponce provided the Navy some initial learning in an operational environment, including how to maintain such a system in the stressing maritime environment, there are no plans to incorporate LaWS on Lewis B. Puller at this time. The Navy will continue to explore options for incorporating directed energy (DE) weapons aboard Navy assets. DE has the potential to offer game-changing capabilities for our sailors and Marines, which include: rapid engagement, low cost per engagement, deep magazines, and the ability to tailor effects to specific targets and missions,” Clarke said.
“LaWS was deployed aboard Ponce to verify and further develop laser weapons in an austere, operationally relevant environment. The results of the LaWS deployment will inform and inspire future laser weapon development.”

With Ponce already being a USS warship, though manned by a hybrid crew of Navy sailors and civilian mariners, it was able to conduct whatever mission was asked of it by theater commanders. Clarke told USNI News that for missions like mine-countermeasures and special operations forces staging – Puller’s two primary missions, for now – “under the legal mandate, the commanding officer must be a commissioned naval officer who is able and ready to execute a full-range of missions, and who is trained and experienced in rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict. … Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations. Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”

Puller will retain the hybrid crew it was built to host, and that Ponce used. The ship has a large flight deck in the center of the ship that separates uniformed and civilian mariner berthing spaces. Clarke said the conversion to a USS warship requires the addition of an O-6 commanding officer billet, which will be added through a redistribution of existing billets. The ship already had a stateroom for a commanding officer and therefore needs no physical modifications as a result of the new designation. The crew for USS Lewis B. Puller will now include five naval officers, 96 enlisted sailors to operate the flight deck and support operational detachments, and 44 civilian mariners from MSC to operate and maintain the flight deck and engineering spaces.

USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in 2015. USS Navy Photo

Clarke noted this hybrid crew concept is also used on submarine tenders USS Frank Cable (AS-40) and USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LLC-20), along with Ponce.

The change to a USS warship creates no additional work for the engineers supporting the ship at Naval Sea Systems Command or the requirements officers at the Pentagon, he said, and creates to changes in training or equipping the ship for operations.

Additionally, Puller’s new designation does not necessarily mean follow-on ESBs would be designated a USS warship either. Clarke said that “the Navy will assess each ship on an individual basis, weighing combatant commander mission requirements and the projected area of operation for each ship.” And the Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs), from which the ESB design was derived, are not set for USS designation either.

“The intent is not to set a precedent for other classes of ships, but to maximize the capabilities that ESB has, and provide combatant commanders with assets that enable them to meet all operational requirements,” Clarke told USNI News.

  • robert richard

    This ship is a Swiss Army knife. We need 20 more.

    • Frank Langham

      Exactly. A poor man’s LHD … Scads of generic operations real estate plus huge reserves of fuel, potable water, generic mission module parking (under the flight deck) … Best bang for the buck, going and the brass and congress saw the pure and simple logic … We can save (literally) billions, while building out our Sea-Basing and forward deployed assets. … Really, nothing not to love.

      • leesea

        It is not an amphib warfare ship and was never intended to be one.

        • Frank Langham

          You don’t say ? … I should know … An Alaska Class ESB can, very certainly, perform a great many missions, to which, an LHD/LHA would, traditionally, have been assigned and the entire point is that, even though the ESB is not a stand-alone combatant (in most near-peer battle scenarios) and, even though it cannot pull anywhere near a sustained 20 knots, at flank speed, WHAT AN ESB CAN DO is to relieve an amphib, and free-up that ship for more intense, more risky, more urgent missions. …. Disaster relief is only one of many prime examples … In Haiti, or the Philippines, for instance, an LHD might steam, at best speed, as a first responder, in order to provide initial recon, security, triage, etc. … An ESB would also be dispatched, at 12 knots (or better?) to REPLACE the amphib and continue MEDEVAC, re-supply, and other sustained operations. I could very easily name another 30 missions (scenarios) where an ESB would, indeed, fully provide all of the capabilities which an amphib would bring to the table (and even more so, in many cases).
          Finally, I would go further, and say, that there are many missions for which an ESB would be yet even much more appropriate and capable (not to mention 70% less costly). But, if it turns you on, to put people in their place, you should first consider their insight and involvement. I guarantee, this is one subject where YOU will not be taking ME to school.

          • leesea

            Alaska class? Where did you get that from?
            No well well, no weapons, less troop space, limited ammo storage, limited boat support. Not hangar deck below. Limited number of helo spots. How in the world can you compare an ESB to any big deck Gator?
            The ESG are not meant to be dispatched any where other than where the COCOM needs one and not quickly/
            The HA/DR support roles are only more recent ones for amphibs.
            Facts are tough to deny.
            Been following the MLP/AFSB nee ESD/ESB for ten years now.

          • Frank Langham

            You are trippin’ and clueless … You must be looking at the USS Ponce. … YES, the ‘Alaska Class” ESBs have maint hangars for two heavy lift helos and you can land V-22s and F-35s on it … You have cranes and ops for various spec-ops and tow-sleds and USVs and various submersibles … berthing for hundreds of grunts … Enough fuel capacity to serve as an oiler … Seriously … What is not to love, for pennies on the dollar for your average “gator” … These ESBs can definitely hold the fort down while LHDs move on to other, higher intensity missions. A great addition to any SeaBase and just about as handy and as cost effective as a generic ops platform can be … The new ESBs are extremely flexible, generic operations real-estate and they do all-that at a very affordable lifetime cost.
            Furthermore, using the commercial production pipeline distributes and expands our industrial capacity at a time when we need our combatant pipelines for more critical platforms. I LOVE LHDs …. I just cannot afford to buy OR operate nearly as many as I would like to. …. ESBs can relieve that strain.
            If you cannot see the clear cut logic and cost advantages then, you must be some sort of troll.
            .

          • Jeff Oliwek

            the flight deck is not certified for F35 ops…. the exhaust is way too hot, will cause structural issues for the flight deck… it will support a single (possibly 2) V22 osprey, or up to 4 H53’s.

            its official class designation is included under the montford point class of ship, which is “based” off the alaska class oil tanker… it is not an alaska class ESB.

          • Secundius

            An “ARC” Coating of AlON (Al23N27O3) or “Aluminum Oxynitride” is applied to the Flight Deck to Disperse Heat. Which is Temperature Rated to ~3900F, or a MV-22 at 75% power for 10-minutes before Complete Engine Shutdown is required…

          • Frank Langham

            According to official sources (operations command) the F35B only needs a roll-out matt (asbestos based?) to allow it to land on the ESB or any deck that is large enough and can handle the shock of a possible hard landing. … The hull is Alaska class and some (or most) of the tank and ballast architecture is essentially intact (though to carry JP and H2O).

          • Secundius

            Unfortunately “Asbestos” was Banned by the US Military back in 2002. “Thermion/AlON” is used instead, which in a “Cermet” composite of Ceramics and Aluminum (aka Aluminum Oxynitride [Al23O27N5]). Which is Temperature Rated up to ~+3902F…

          • Frank Langham

            GTK, Thanks.

          • Frank Langham

            Unlike the ESDs which lower the entire ship until their boat decks are awash, ESBs use cranes to raise and lower small boats of up to 11 metric tons to the water from their mission deck.
            Lewis B. Puller is the first non-combatant ship to have the new Navy N-30 class passive fire protection system installed.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      Not really.

      For such a huge vessel that wasn’t particularly cheap it doesn’t do a lot.

      Small vessels can’t come aboard because the ship can’t flood its lower deck and the crane is puny for the size of the ship.

      Accommodation is provided by an “accommodation barge” being dragged behind it, which must look ridiculous.

      If they wanted an extremely versatile platform built to commercial standards but could do a lot more for the same money then something like the Mistral would offer more versatility in a smaller frame at a similar cost.

      • leesea

        What accomodations barge????
        The ESB has internal accomodations for 250 troops plus crew.

        • Frank Langham

          You do not understand the definition of “accommodations barge”, in this context … Think of it as a steel hotel that is welded to the deck (or hull). It is not a separate hull. Do an image search.

          • leesea

            The flight deck is a mezzaine deck added to the basic MLP/ESD hull. The troop spaces are internal. I have seen the plans and the images don’t show internals.

      • Frank Langham

        You have your head so far up your butt that I am embarrassed FOR you …. Do not attempt to speak authoritatively on subjects that you (very obviously) know nothing about. You truly do not have a clue and you are coming off as a troll.

        • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

          Wow Frankie!

          Someone pissed in your cornflakes didn’t they!

          Don’t be so angry, it’s Friday….. be happy Frankie boy!
          That, or go hang yourself or something, either way.

    • leesea

      HOGWASH! They are POS designs that cost far too much at $500 mil per hull.

  • totalitat

    On our way to 350 ships! Next up: Trump’s yacht gets commissioned.

    • old guy

      He can use one of the LCSs. That’s all that they are good for.

  • BlueSky47

    Since she’s now a warship, she’ll need to protect herself. So at the min. she’ll need (2) Phalanx mounts, (2) Sea-ram mounts, (4) 25mm mod 2 mounts, basic EW, nixie, upgrade of comms. etc.

    • DaSaint

      I was thinking the same thing, but where to put them!

      Unlike the ESDs which ballast down, the ESBs don’t, which creates some problems, considering the flight deck is so high above the waterline. It would appear easy enough to bolt on 2 SeaRam forward (P/S), and possibly (2) 25mm just forward of the flight deck. But I’m concerned about coverage to the waterline. The mission deck can possibly take 2 Phalanx (P/S) to combat sea-skimming missiles, but I’d add a platform aft for an additional Phalanx CIWS to cover the stern.

      And of course, install ESM, Nixie, upgraded comms, etc.

      • leesea

        ESD can only ballast down 18 feet.
        There are lots of problems with trying to support boats UNDER the flight path of aircraft. I am betting NAVAIR won’t like that?
        Well maybe Mk 38 on mission deck?

    • Joe Tenaglia

      Yes an rest of MSC unarmed fleet.

      • leesea

        MPF have weapons mounts on them. Obviously the Ponce and Emory Land do to. CLF have space and weight reservations, but all are still minimally armed really insufficient for self-defense

    • leesea

      The ship is a commissioned naval auxiliary, which does NOT make it a warship.
      No provisions were made for many weapons on a USNS naval auxiliary, so we will see what acutally gets installed?

  • airider

    Seems like a better ship to target the mission packages for than LCS. Top side and mid-deck options look infinitely better than any combatant. The mission packages could then be built as all up rounds for the missions they’re focused on rather than trying to make them work with the two dissimilar combat systems on each LCS varient. This then would make the quick switch out of mission packages originally envisioned for LCS a reality.

    • draeger24

      well…it wouldn’t replace the LCS, but it could hold the “Mission Modules” for a swap out. These ships draw 36 feet….and top out at 15= knots. Too slow, to deep. This could serve as a mother ship for LCS, Patrol Coastals, and MK-5 SPECWAR craft, similar to the “Barge” concept during the “Tanker Wars” in the 80’s.

      • leesea

        there is a big diference between a combatant and a naval auxiliary which the ESB are. Don’t believe thing junior officers say and think are correct~
        There is NO WAY an ESB can adequately support PCs or combat boats.

        The Mobile Support Bases were ad hoc temporary vessels at best.
        The US Navy is spending $500 million or so per hull for ESBs.

        • draeger24

          First, I said they possibly could, not that they would…secondly, they will be in the same area as where these vessels ALREADY operate, not out as a combatant, and the PC acts as a ,other ship for RHIBS and MK-5s. These could act as a mother ship not leaving port as designed or offshore just as was ALREADY done in the ’80’s during OP PRAYING MANTIS.

        • Frank Langham

          Awarded:February 2012
          Builder:NASSCO – San Diego, California
          Cost:$134.9 million US$ (FY 2014)
          The overall design of Lewis B. Puller is based on the hull of the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker.

          • leesea

            that is for the design work, total programmatic costs exceeded $500 million: build, trials, outfit, life cycle etc.

    • leesea

      yes at least as far as MIW is concerned. But otherwise NOT related to LCS.

  • old guy

    If that thing is warship, I will dust off my WW2 MOS 133 and say I’m still a tank driver.

    i

    • leesea

      She is now a commissioned ship designated USS which does NOT make her a warship. I think poor young Lt Clarke misspoke several times.

  • DaSaint

    This program is a good example of innovation taking place in a relatively short timeframe. Commercial baseline design, modifications for military applications, construction and launch in an almost unheard of 1 year (kudos NASSCO), and operational deployment to a forward area just 5 years since funding.

    • El_Sid

      Come off it – “unheard of”? I’m not saying they’ve done a bad job, but let’s get a bit of perspective. The Atlantic Causeway was converted to a similar role in just over a week, and received 4000 helicopter landings and 500 refuellings during the Falklands war, at a conversion cost of <US$30m in modern money.OK, it was mostly just a bunch of containers on deck, with no fancy staterooms for the O-6, but it shows what can be done if you have war to concentrate your mind on the job. However – would the USN be better served by putting together some modular “kits” in containers that could be put on board any random civilian ship as and when needed? A better-quality version of Arapaho in other words, or something like the British SCADS which included containerised SAMs?

      • DaSaint

        El_Sid. First, let me start by thanking you for helping me make my point. Second, the Atlantic Causeway was converted by the British, for the Royal Navy, at the onset of the Falklands War, in….wait for it…1982. They did a fine job (let’s note that the plans were already in hand, specifications already know, as both her and her sister ship were Cunard properties, and the RN had this plan in hand for such a contingency.

        That was 35 years ago, and a quite commendable feat, I agree with you.

        Third, the Atlantic Causeway was a conversion, not a newbuild. I’m not going to debate the benefits of the conversion option vs the ESB, but I’m clear that I stated ‘construction and launch in an almost unheard of 1 year’, which is significant for US shipyards with USN contracts, though it is NOT a warship.

        Fourth, during wartime…way back in WW2, vessels were being produced at a much faster rate than 1 year, but we’re not going that far back to make a comparison, nor is it necessary.

        Last, considering a multitude of US DOD projects over the last 30 years, it is IMO commendable (and not at all commonplace) that this project was executed so efficiently, and to the best of my knowledge, within its budget parameters.

        Maybe the USN can learn a thing or two from the RN every so often, and that’s fine, but conversion vs. newbuild is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

        • leesea

          There is no way one can characterize the ESG and ESB as good programs. They were redesigned to desope about FIVE times. The end cost is far more than the Should Cost Value. And both class designs have several distinct limitations.

          • DaSaint

            Of course there is. But you don’t have to agree. In fact, all that should matter to anyone is that area commands now have more options, have them quicker, and can continue to do their jobs in forward deployed locations. Until some more financing can be placed in the pipeline for 5 dedicated LSDs or LXs or whatever, these will have to do, as their replacements won’t be around for 10 years. What’s that old saying? ‘perfect is the enemy of the good’.

            For now these will have to do. $2.5 billion for 5 (FIVE) competent platforms, in service by 2020 vs. $10 billion for 5 platforms that won’t be ready until 2027-2030 at best.

          • leesea

            I think spending $2.5 Billion of the taxpayer dollars for five ships which should have cost One billion is just not right. The LSMR program got the Navy 13 ships for only $3 Billion. Those numbers just aren’t the right way to spend Navy ship building bucks – IMHO

      • leesea

        Sid apples and oranges. AC was an ad hoc set of mods brought on by a immediate need. It was a container ship hull. The ESBs were not done that way, came thru the regular process. and is a tanker hull.
        The nifty containerized missiles on “any old ship” concept will not come to pass.
        Those were good Brit ideas and came to pass as RFA ships in a different form.

    • leesea

      This program was NOTHING BUT corporate welfare. Just because NASSCO had a tanker production line going is no reason to throw money at them. I am NOT knocking NASSCO work, but higher up folks.
      The designs have many flaws caused by the NAVSEA selecting a cut-down tanker as baseline. and there is not way they Should Cost around $500 million each

      • DaSaint

        Not saying at all that $500 million each is not significant, but keep in mind that BP paid approx. $1 billion for 4 standard Alaska-class tankers. The design had to be drastically redesigned and re-engineered, and a host of systems added/changed for the USN requirement. We can agree or disagree with such changes, but a $250 million ‘premium’ on top of the baseline is what it is.

        I could also argue that an LSD shouldn’t cost nearly $2 billion, but when there are no REAL competitive bids, the status quo continues. Everybody stays in their lane and is rewarded accordingly. Until the ‘powers that be’ allow themselves to shake free of the big 3 shipbuilders, there will be no significant change.

  • scottled

    The author misstates the hull class of the Mt. Whitney as “command ship USS Mount Whitney (LLC-20)”. Forever and a day the ship has been an “LCC”, or Amphibious Command Ship, not an “LLC”, which I guess is a Limited Liability Corporation. Ask any sailor, and they will tell you about the term meaning “Let’s Clean Continuously.” Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s not like this publication is THE professional journal of the United States Navy, where maybe someone would notice, or possibly correct, the discrepancy. Besides, making the Mount Whitney a Limited Liability Corporation may be an interesting new strategy. No longer “From the Sea”, but “From the CPA”.

  • Rob C.

    Sounds like Navy trying to focus it’s man power towards combatant roles, while off-shoring the hardstuff to civilians. I think that may come back to bite them. I know Lewis is still a to-be commissioned Auxiliary ship, but i don’t like idea of civilians potentially being put in harms way. Service members are trained handle battle damage. Eventually enemy forces will target behind friendly lines forces like the Puller, then there will be real problems.

    If things keep going way they are, there may be a shortage of engineering billets because the service was cutting corners and sliding civilians (likely former service members) into the slots. But those folks are older, likely will not be around forever, their less likely be around since they can just quit. Service members can’t.

    I think this opening for bad things to happen.

    • John Locke

      MSC has had a mix of civilians and Sailors riding their ships for decades.

    • Mac

      Please define “hard stuff’? As for the precedent of civilians aboard a warship in combat, weren’t there a significant number of civilian shipyard personnel still aboard Yorktown when she sailed for Midway?

      • leesea

        MSC already has an AS, LCC and AFSB(I) Ponce with hybrid crews on them. Where you been?

      • Rob C.

        What i meant was the there was potential skill loss for the newer enlist/commission personel. If the MSC folks are doing it, how are the navy personnel going to do what MSC learned a long time ago? I’m not against Merchant Marines, i was going to be one. However, i just thought odd that they were commissioning a non-combatant ship into a potential hot zone with hybrid crew.

        • Secundius

          Aren’t WE looking away from the other “Lesser” OBVIOUS?/! That the “Civilian” Crew in Question, are Test Contractors working on and for the LaWS Laser system aboard the ship…

          • leesea

            This was a GOCO ship when USNS. Govt owned, contractor operated. Those folks are referred to as CONMARS contract mariners.
            So the question is: will the hybrid crew be USN sailors and CIVMARs, or CONMARs? I think the former since all hybrid crewed ships have that setup: Saliors+CIVMARs and maybe a security det. The later not needed as security now becomes a sailor job on just the Puller as on the USS Ponce.

        • leesea

          Short answer is the mariners will do the hard jobs reliably and professionally while the sailors go about their military duties.

    • leesea

      Civilians specifically MSC crews have been in harms way since 1949.

      • MarlineSpikeMate

        U.S. Merchant Mariners have been in harms way since 1775.

        • leesea

          Right you are! Tell it to the Marines

  • publius_maximus_III

    Seems odd to have a “warship” with a third of the crew civilian, and the largest armament apparently the 9 mm sidearms of the Marines guarding the brig.

    “Give me a floating Walmart, for I intend to go in Harm’s Way.” — Sam Walton

    • leesea

      that would be becaue it is NOT a warship. All commissioned USS ships are not warships

      • publius_maximus_III

        Ummm, title of this USNI News article:

        “Navy to Commission Middle East-based Expeditionary Sea Base Lewis B. Puller as a Warship”

        • El Kabong

          What’s the USS Mount Whitney and the rest of the Blue Ridge class armed with?

          • publius_maximus_III

            Tobacco juice.

            Seriously, Wiki says the USS Mount Whitney has:
            o Two Phalanx CIWS
            o Two 25 mm Bushmaster cannons
            o Four 0.5 in (12.7 mm). machine guns
            o Mark 36 SRBOC chaff rockets

          • El Kabong

            Yet, they are considered “warships”.

          • leesea

            I believe they kept there existing weapons suite as below

          • El Kabong

            Which would be….?

            What offensive weapons?

          • El Kabong

            Nothing of an offensive nature.

            Seems some folks around here can’t understand that a “warship” doesn’t have to be a destroyer, frigate, etc.

        • leesea

          Dont believe everything you read in the newspaper~

          • publius_maximus_III

            Your admonition must apply to Navy News Service as well (www.navyDOTmil):

            “MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) — The U.S. Navy converted USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) to a U.S. naval warship, commissioning the Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during a ceremony at Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain, Aug. 17.

            “Puller is the first U.S. ship to be commissioned outside the United States. With its commissioning, the U.S. Navy adds yet another warship towards its goal of having a larger, more capable force. The ship’s reclassification provides U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. 5th Fleet greater flexibility to better meet regional challenges.”

          • leesea

            The Navy photo captions by MCS ratings are notoriously inaccurate. The article is not much better. The ship was NOT reclassified, its type i.e. classification remains ESB. Puller was commissioned vice placed in service. That would be a status change. I wonder if the NVR website has caught up with this yet?
            And I would note this is the second AFSB style of ship to show up in CENTCOM needing further mods. Who can’t make up their minds?

    • leesea

      MSC ships typically have shotguns, rifles and side arms for their force protection needs. Maritime security dets bring on HMGs and MANPADs when assigned

  • Joe Tenaglia

    Now its time to change the designation and install close in defense systems on the rest of our MSC Naval Logistics force ships. To include missile defense, CIWS, electronic countermeasures. The enemy does not care if a tanker, oiler or ammo ship is designated as a “non-combatatant before they sink it. With “Game On” unarmed logistics force ships are a recipe for disaster, escorts are few, and someone will have to answer for it someday.

    • leesea

      tell it to the lawyers

  • Joe Tenaglia

    Now its time to install ships defense systems on the rest of our “non-combatant” MSC logistics force fleet.

    With “Game On”, the enemy will not care if the ship is designated as a “non-combatant” before they sink it.

    • leesea

      They already have minimal self-defense weapons. I think its the lawyers who are holding back more weapons on MSC ships?

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Commission every freighter and you can reach that 350 target in no time.

  • Secundius

    Suppose to be armed with a New AN/SEQ-3 (XN-1) 150-Kw LaWS Laser…

    • leesea

      The Laser that is on the Ponce? I thought the article said it wasn;t being cross-decked?

      • Secundius

        Ponce is scheduled to be SCRAPPED and/or SUNK. New Laser Test Ship is expected to be “Chesty Puller” and redesignated the T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1(2N) USS Chesty Puller. The (2N) is for an ALL US Navy Crew, that’s why she’s has a USS prefix, instead of the USNS prefix…

        • leesea

          Article does not say that. Ponce is in better condition now than when the USN operated it.
          USS Puller will have a hybrid crew as described in the article. And as done on USS Ponce and USS Emory Land.
          The ship was commissioned so it could conduct offensive operations per current legal policy.

  • leesea

    I sure hope someone in N85 recognized these realities of ship construction and operation?
    A. Pick the right ship type up front (yes there were several other designs which were/are cheaper)
    B. OPNAV must make decisions about CONOPS before you build Three half-billion $$ ships
    C. One does not just redesignate a brand new ship on an individual ship basis. It will cost more money! On top of the about $500 million already spend building just one.
    While I understand the legal and operational considerations, ”flipping ships” should NOT be done. There are too many details about construction standards, crewing/accommodations, logistic support, life cycle management, etc. that MUST be planned for upfront. OTOH noting the FDNF comment, MSC is one of the few naval commands which has and can maintained ships on-station for years to come.
    I saw the reference to warship several times, those could be misspeaks? Since both MLP & ESB classes were built as naval auxiliary not combatants. IOW all commissioned ships are not warships.
    Why weren’t the COCOMs brought into the loop earlier, say in the yard when they knew which ship would be replacing the Ponce?
    P.S.
    This will be the second time that CENTCOM had an emergent rqmt for an AFSB type ship, Ponce first, and it seems the Puller is not what the Commander wanted? What gives?

    • Secundius

      Consider it an HA(L)-3 “Seawolves” on Steroids…

      • leesea

        Why ? when there are smaller and faster ships to support helo gunships.
        And those old Huey Bravos will be displaced by the huge Sea Stallaions and Ospreys.

        • Secundius

          It was also meant to Haul and Support Mk. 6 Patrol Boats and US Army Corps of Engineers L-CAT-33’s (32.6m Catamaran MSV(L)’s…

          • leesea

            NO the ESB nor the ESD were not.

          • Secundius

            At least one “JHSV” is also meant to Operate with the Vessel, for a Minimum of a 4-day Unsupported Operation for “IT’S” ~298 Billeted Marines…

          • leesea

            The JHSV nee EPF has a large one spot deck and no hangar for H-60. One might just be able to fit a turning Huey and one with blades stopped? Maybe?
            It sure would be nice if the class had more, but it doesn’t and no elevator etc down to the mission deck. Plenty of troop space and limited store rooms plus measly magazine. I have been on several AGPs in ‘Nam and the JHSV/EPF but it is not as “fully featured” and sure is a helluva lot faster!

          • Secundius

            Flight Deck of JHSV is rated to be able to Support the Weight of the Sikorsky CH-53K “King Stallion” or ~75,000-pounds…

          • leesea

            No it is rated for an earlier version of the CH-53

          • Secundius

            Unfortunately when 53K’s are Introduced into Service. 53E’s are to be Phased Out of Service…

          • leesea

            While the JHSV/EFP have big flight decks, they are AL and mods will be needed for Ospreys and F-35Bs to land. Hover is ok

          • Secundius

            Neither Vessels are F-35B Capable!/? Only the EFB will be “Thermion” (Aluminum Oxnitride/Al23O27N5) Arc Coated to Except MV-22’s. JHSV “ISN’T” being considered for MV-22 deployment. Even in “Hover Mode” Down Wash by Exhaust exceeds +3000F…

          • leesea

            I know the JHSVs are Not at this time. The ESB-3 was not when it came out of build yard, but may have been upgraded during PSA? I got to assume MLP-4&5 nee ESB will be during construction?

          • Secundius

            Future “Possible” placement of MV-22’s on ESB classes in the Future (Big “IF”). But NONE are Known to be Scheduled to Operate from the JHSV. And unless they (the US Navy) have plans to Change the Flight Deck Configuration of the ESB’s. ANY possibilities of F-35B’s operating of her Flight Deck, is Between “Nil and None”. It Vertical Take-Off and Vertical Landings are the Only Options, than F-35B’s is Limited to Internally Stored Fuel and Ordnance…

          • Jeff Oliwek

            it could MAYBE hold 2 MV-22’s at their physical size. and the flight deck was not built to withstand the exhaust of an F35… it’ll weaken the deck and cause other issues…

          • leesea

            The endurance of the EPF with a full troop load is dependent on its provisions. Not all of the 300 Marines are billeted in the conventional sense. There are only sleeping berths for 100. The balance have very large airline type seats to sleep in. Again the size of the galley also limits food service.
            Which COCOM gets which EPF is fluid at this time.

          • Secundius

            Wasn’t referring to “Berthing” on JHSV, but to ESB. JHSV is to Transport and Supply up-to 300 Marines for up to 4-days without Outside Support. Until an MEU arrives on scene or Airborne Units…

          • leesea

            roger

    • Frank Langham

      Namesake:Lewis B. Puller, Sr.
      Awarded:February 2012
      Builder:NASSCO – San Diego, California
      Cost:$134.9 million US$ (FY 2014)
      The overall design of Lewis B. Puller is based on the hull of the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker. Lewis B. Puller will be outfitted with support facilities for its mine-sweeping, special operations, and other expeditionary missions. An accommodation barge will also be carried to support up to 298 additional mission-related personnel, including special-operations teams

      • leesea

        While NASSCO may call them Alaska, the whole ship design was redone from the tank tops up. In fact the ESB were thought of after the MLP design had been done. So I say the ESB is built on the ESD type, and since they are naval auxiliaries not tankers, that leaves the later name out of the picture. IMHO
        There has never been any accommodation barge built or put on an ESB. Sounds like a mistake? Unless that barge was for the ESD??

      • Jeff Oliwek

        the military class would be considered under the montford point class ESD’s,

  • Joe Tenaglia

    I am a retired USN CDR, worked for MSC for 16 yrs., to be clear, all ships of the Military Sealift Command Combat Logistics Force that operate in direct support of the fleet T-AOE’s, T-AO’s, T-AKE’s are crewed by civilians and have NO installed close in weapons defense, (ex.Sea Ram, CIWS, Electronic Countermeasures, chaff or Nixie). They may have when deployed a small security armed with small arms and a few crew served weapons.
    The new construction T-AKE’s, T-AO’s are/have been built to commercial standards and have no design provisions to install weapons in time of war.
    T-EPF Expeditionary Fast Transports a commercial high speed very design, no installed systems. The HSV Swift was completely destroyed by a Houthi missile.
    AFSB, Afloat Staging bases, commercial design, no weapons designed to support ship to shore movement. Think Korean Peninsula.
    T-ESB Expeditionary Mobile Bases, commercial design, no installed weapons.
    The civilian crews have minimal damage control, firefighting training, no physical fitness standards whose average age is over 50.
    My fear is in a kinetic environment (war) these vessels will be very vulnerable. Even the Houthi rebels have ASM’s. Escorts today are few and far between.
    My intention is not to impune Civilian Mariners/Merchant Mariners however with no self defense it could be a recipe for disaster for them and the forces and troops they support.

    • leesea

      Not quite right. The JSHV need T-EPF have four gun mounts on them and have fired .50s from those. There have been other weapons systems tested on the HSVs.
      ESB are radically modified naval auxiliaries. Someone screwed up by not having space and weight reservations for self-defense weapons – IMHO.
      ESB are not meant for ship to shore rather to stay OFF shore and serve as a base.

      I think you will find more DC and training on modern USNS as well as a lower avg. are.

      As always the USN does not protect CLF, MPF and other MSC shipping any where near as much as they should

  • Eyes open

    Now that’s getting your money’s worth out of a ship 946 years for the Ponce)! Too bad they don’t see their way to extending the life of more vessels past 25 years.

    • Ed L

      The old Ponce is 47 years old now. Pretty old for a Gator. The Blue Ridge and Mt Whitney (USS Neversail) are going to be 47 years old too.

      • leesea

        Navy made a decision to keep the LCCs in service longer vice replacing them

  • Ed L

    Will Civilians be allow to be shot if they refuse orders during time of war. All right now mount a CWIS and SEA RAM, four 25mm chain guns, four 50 cal. and four 7.62 chain guns.

    • leesea

      Hogwash!

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    The Navy just isn’t cut out to steam and navigate ships anymore. Their skillset is dismal, as can be affirmed with all the collisions, allisions, and engineering casualties they routinely sustain. They are so pre-occupied with ‘collaterals’ and other junk to do an effective job. Take a look at thier preventative maintenance. They can hardly keep a new ship maintained with hundreds of sailors and millions of dollars. MSC maintains much older ships at a fraction of the cost and people, and usually doesn’t run the ship aground or operate the reduction gear without lube oil.. its no wonder this is becoming the trend. Excuse my bluntness.

  • Joe Tenaglia

    I was referring to capable installed ship defense systems capable of taking on modern anti-ship weapons, ex CIWS, Sea Ram, ECM.
    .50 cals are not capable to track and destroy incoming missiles, aircraft, torpedoes.

    USS Ponce, USS Emory Land, USS Mount Whitney, etc. are not designated USNS non-combatants. They are hybrid crews of Navy with a CIVMAR component but CO is Navy.

    If you compare other Navies, look at China, Royal Navy their auxiliaries have installed modern defense system.

    My issue is ours have been removed and new construction USNS have no provisions for ships defense system.

    I am a recently retired MSC Damage Control Man, I trained thousands of CIVMARS, in FF/DC/CBRD/AT/SDF/survival, the training is minimal at best, physical standards are pass the physical.

  • Frank Langham

    Awarded:February 2012
    Builder:NASSCO – San Diego, California
    Cost:$134.9 million US$ (FY 2014)
    The overall design of Lewis B. Puller is based on the hull of the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker. Lewis B. Puller will be outfitted with support facilities for its mine-sweeping, special operations, and other expeditionary missions. An accommodation barge will also be carried to support up to 298 additional mission-related personnel, including special-operations teams

    • leesea

      “The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics National Steel and
      Shipbuilding a $324.4 million contract to definitize the long lead time
      material and to award the detail, design and construction of
      Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) 5.
      NASSCO received a $106 million contract in June this year to procure long lead time material and engineering support for ESB 5”
      Which equals $430.4 mil just to the shipyard and does not count costs like logistics, test & trials, and deficiency correction, contract admin and engineering, and PSA costs.
      So knowing how those items add up, I say the ESB is a Half Billion $$$ over priced hull with some distinct limitations to the ship operating features. Now add to the above the cost to switch the ship from USNS to USS which as a rule of thumb is $5 million plus whatever new weapons and electronic systems are going to be installed (less the Laser gun~) will cost?

      And the register goes ca-chin well over $500 million for ESB-3, probably somewhat less for ESB-2&3?

      • Frank Langham

        So … Are you laying the entire design and program setup costs on the first 3 ESBs delivered ? … What would you estimate ESB-12 and ESB-13 to cost, for their lifetime ? … IF you were to assign the same math and parameters to the cost of a NEW class of LHDs, what do you think the 1st three ships would cost (life-cycle et. al.)? …
        Now … I know that the ESBs cannot be compared to a “real” LHD, by any fanciful stretch BUT, I live in Texas and the U.S. NAVY is sending an LHD and an LSD at best speed, as I type (hurricane relief) … Three ESBs with medical mission modules would be good to have, on hand (spread out from Corpus-to-Houston and eastward) … Once the “Real” Amphibs have delivered whatever trucks and supplies to staging bases, they can move on and the ESBs could take over MedEvac and fueling, as well as operational comms, and C2.
        … Why have you got such a major bug in your skivvies over this ESD/ESB thing ? … Did you have friends that wanted that money or what ?
        There is nothing not to love about the ESB/ESD program, but if you think the USN/DoD and the Taxpayers are being gouged, then, tell us exactly WHO is ripping us off (name names) … As you can see, my REAL name and my REAL photo are posted, right here, with my comments … Who ARE you and why are you hiding behind a fake avatar ?
        Take me to school … But use an honest measure and get your full agenda out on the table. … Where is the waste (or graft) that you are accusing “some actors” of ? … Help us get a better value and a fair price. … There is nothing wrong with the ESB/ESD ships and, in concept, they should cost less than a 10th (or less) what a “true amphib” costs … But I accuse YOU of having some hidden agenda (or ulterior loyalty) if you are dissing the design or the execution of the Alaska Conversions Program(s) … They ROCK and we will be building many more.
        If you can force less expensive deliveries, then, yeah, show us the blood and a smoking gun.

  • leesea

    While we are considering the value of the MLP modified to ESB configuration, let me post some costs for the baseline MLP construction and some other cost from the Defense Industry Daily:

    MLP budgetary commitments and requests have included:
    FY 2010: $120 million, all advance procurement.
    FY 2011 request: $380 million, all procurement (1 ship).
    FY 2012 request: $425.9 million, all procurement (1 ship + advance procurement).
    FY 2014 request: $135 million to complete the third MLP (= ESB-3) as an
    AFSB;

    $56 million for various research and development efforts, and
    $43.4 million for outfitting and post-delivery costs with the first MLP.