The Navy accepted delivery of USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB-5), the expeditionary sea base that was damaged while under construction when its dry dock flooded in July 2018 and subsequently set back by about six months.
By accepting Miguel Keith on Friday, the Navy signified that ownership was transferred to the service from the shipyard. The ship will be owned and operated by the Military Sealift Command.
“The Navy and industry team overcame significant setbacks in the construction of this ship, and I’m extremely proud of the urgency and determination displayed on everyone’s part to deliver a high-quality ship that will support our operational requirements in the 7th Fleet area of operations,” Capt. Scot Searles, the strategic sealift and theater sealift program manager within the Program Executive Office for Ships, said in a statement.
“Like the ship’s namesake, those who sail aboard Miguel Keith will embody his dedication to service to our country.”
Miguel Keith was built at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego. On July 11, 2018, the graving dock at the NASSCO yard flooded, floating Miguel Keith off its docking blocks. The unfinished ship took on water through hull cuts made to allow workers and equipment to reach interior spaces, according to Navy officials at the time. Repairs pushed back Navy acceptance of the ship by about six months.
Miguel Keith is named for Vietnam War Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith. The ship is the fifth expeditionary ship built by General Dynamics NASSCO and the third in the ESB configuration.
The ESB class of ships has a displacement of 90,000 tons, and can accommodate up to 250 personnel, according to a Naval Sea Systems Command fact sheet. The ESB class design is based on an Alaska-class crude oil tanker design. The ESBs include a four-spot flight deck and hangar above a mission deck.
The create the mission deck, the ESB’s designers scooped out the middle section of the ship, leaving a massive open space to support four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control of assets such as unmanned vehicles and small boats, according to NAVSEA.
The class of ships was initially intended to support mine countermeasures and special operations forces through the launch and recovery of small boats and unmanned vehicles. Helicopters can operate off a flight deck above the mission bay area. However, the Marine Corps has since expressed an interest in using the platform for a variety of missions, notably for forward-deployed forces in the Middle East.