US Navy ESB and ESD Vessels (Expeditionary Base & Dock)

Jeff Head

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THE AFSB PROGRAM

The United States Navy is moving forward with its advanced amphibious program based on the SeaPower21 and sea-basing initiatives to meet the U.S. Marine Corps' future requirements and to support joint forces' ability to launch combat power from the sea in support of the the Wasp Class LHDs, the America Class LHAs, and the San Antonio Class LPDs.

A foremost capability in this regard is the Afloat Forward Stagin Base (AFSB). This will be a large ship with multiple capabilities. it will indlucde a large flight deckc from which MV-22 Ospreys and US helicopters (from MH-53 Mine hunting helos, down to Sea Hawk helos) will be able to operate. It will also include Roll-on/Roll-Off (RORO) capabilities and transfer at sea capabilities to other vessels, from Mobile Landing Platforms, to LHDs and LHAs to LCACs. Specifically, each ship would provide a 1,000' flat helicopter launch deck with 2 aircraft elevators and 1 container elevator. Each must be capable of holding 30 VTOL aircraft and 1,000 soldiers, with a 6-story modularized office space (TOC), along with a dry cargo area and an area for ammunition magazines. The forced-entry capability might consist of 12 UH-60 Black Hawk, 6 CH-47 Chinook, 6 AH-64 Apache Longbow, and 6 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. In support it would have Aviation maintenance and FARP capability

In addition, larger hospital spaces and command and control spaces as well as, of course, crew and troop berthing spaces will be included.

With all of these features, these vessels will figure into and operate heavily in several roles, either supporting or taking active part in Amphibious Assault operations, Mine Clearing Operations, Staging Operations for either of the foregoing, acting as a hub for coastal patrol operations or riverine operations, and humanitarian operations. The crew will be made up of both active duty Naval personnel as well as a relatively large portion of civilian personnel from the US Military Sealift Command.

INTERIM AFSB, USS PONCE, AFSB-I


Currently, an "Interim" AFSB has been produced from the USS Ponce. Ponce was formerly the USS Ponce, LPD-15, an Amphibious Assault vessel of the Landing Platform Dock variety and one of the Austin Class vessels. She was commissioned as such in 1971 and she served capably in that role. The Austin class were 16,000 ton full load vessels that had a well deck to accomoadte landing craft of various sizes including one LCAC. They also had a flight deck and could carry up to six large US military helicopters.

With the building of the San Antonio Class LPDs, the Austin class were decommissioned. The last existing Austin Class was the USS Ponce, LPD-15 and she was scheduled for decommissioning in 2012-2013.

Howecver, in 2012, the US Central Command issued an emergency request to refit the Ponce as the first AFSB and list her as an interim AFSB until pupose built AFSB vessels could be built.

As a result, the USS Ponce, AFSB-I was created. She completed her refit in June 2012. Her LPD capabilities with the well deck remain, but her communications and command and control, as well as other outfitting were updated to accomodate here AFSB mission. A high-tech Joint Operations Center was also added for communications during, and potential control of Joint Opertions at Sea. She is armed with two CIWS 20mm Phalanx systems, two MK-38 25mm auto cannons, and six .50 caliber amchine guns for close in protection. In addition, she was outfitted to deploy and recover a ScanEagle surveillance UAVwhich will keep an eye on the sea for miles around all day long.

In its new role, the Ponce is initially intended to be a close-to-the-action support hub for mine-clearing ships, coastal patrol vessels and helicopters. Ships can take on fuel and supplies without having to return to port, and a wide range of repairs can be handled by machinists onboard. That means much less downtime for minesweepers and other vessels using the Ponce as a stopping-off point instead of having to return to a base ashore.

The Ponce's accommodation can also handle hundreds of additional personnel, such as French or other nation's anti-mine divers. In theory, special operations forces could also operate from the Ponce, which is able to launch the small boats and helicopters they often use

Her intial operational duties were established to be the center piece of a large mine clearing operation prepared for use in the Persian Gulf as a contingency against the stated threats by the Iranian government to close down the Staraits of Hormuz in the event the US and ISrael or their allies attempted to stop Irans nuclear development programs.

The USS Ponce, AFSB-I is currently deployed in Persian Gulf region. Of the deployment, the US Central Command said the following:

US Central Command said:
MINA SALMAN PIER, Bahrain - The U.S. Navy’s first Afloat Forward Staging Base- Interim USS Ponce (AFSB-I) arrived in Bahrain for duty in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), July 6.

Prior to arriving in theater, Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock (LPD), was converted and reclassified as an AFSB(I) in April to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) request for an AFSB to be located in its AOR.

“Ponce’s role as an AFSB provides us with an enhanced capability to conduct maritime security operations, and gives us greater flexibility to support a wide range of contingencies with our regional partners,” said Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).

Ponce’s primary mission is to support mine countermeasures (MCM) operations and other missions, such as the ability to provide repair service to other deployed units, including electrical, diesel engine, piping, and machinery repairs. Additionally, Ponce also has the capability to embark and launch small riverine craft.

Commanded by a U.S. Navy Captain, Ponce will remain a U.S. Navy ship. The newly classed AFSB will be manned by a “hybrid” crew consisting of approximately 150 Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian mariners and 55 U.S. Navy Sailors. Sailors will be primarily responsible for the ship operations. MSC personnel will man the engineering, deck and damage control departments.

“The versatility of Ponce, combined with the teamwork of its ‘hybrid’ crew, brings a unique capability to the region." said Capt. Jon Rodgers, commanding officer of Ponce. "As the first dedicated Afloat Forward Staging Base, we look forward to working closely with our coalition and regional partners to promote security and stability."









FUTURE PURPOSE BUILT AFSB VESSELS

Current US Navy plans call for the building of the first purpose built AFSB by 2015. This will likely be the result of a prooduction program that includes taking a very well known and reliable container ship design, navalizing it, and then supplying it with the necessary pupsoe built modular compnents to fit the needs outlined in the description aboive. Such a vessel is likely to displace upwards of 30,000 tons. An excellent depiction of this porcess and resulting vessel is provided in the following video produced by one of the leading contenders for the design and production contract, MAERSK.

[video=youtube;Xn5v7tEBYn4]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn5v7tEBYn4[/video]​

The MAERSK design is not necessarily the preferred or chosen design at this point. In addition to that design, others design considerations, both commercial conversions and existing military vessels, are depicted by the following:








Of these, the first two seem to meet the requirement put forth of a 1000' landing deck most closely.

It is expected that the development and building of these vessels will occur rapidly once a decision is made. A Market Study Porposal was sent out by the Military Sea Lift Command and responses were due early in 2012. no decision has yet been announced. In order to meet a luanch date of 2015, however, it is expected that the vessel will have to begin building no later than the middle to the end of the 2013 year time frame, which means within the year, in order to minimally meet the initial schedule for the first vessel, that vessel will have to be awarded and start building.
 

asif iqbal

Brigadier
What the.........what is the ship in the second last pic which has dockwise ship next to it? A true monster of a ship looks like some military cargo

I thought Mighty Servant was big!
 

Jeff Head

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What the.........what is the ship in the second last pic which has dockwise ship next to it? A true monster of a ship looks like some military cargo

I thought Mighty Servant was big!
That's one of the eight USNS Watson Class RORO Vehicle Cargo Class vessels used by the US Navy. There is also the Bob Hope Class RORO vehicle cargo vessels of which seven were built. They are classified as T-AKR (Roll-on/Roll-off Cargo Ship) and they are monsters.

All eight of the Watson class displace over 62,000 tons each. I will probably create a seperate thread about them. They make up a part of the 33 ship strong pre-positioning fleet in the US Navy, although they are called United States Naval Ships )USNS) as opposed to United States Ship (USS). They are not included in the official US Navy fleet list, instead being a part of the Military Sea-lift Command (MSC).

Here's another few pics of some of these monsters:



USNS Watson T-AKR-310



USNS Red Cloud T-AKR-313



USNS Soderman T-AKR-317


These babies could easily meet up with the Afloat Forward Staging Base vessels and replensih them with vehicles, arms, maerial etc. The whole idea is to establish a capability to provide basing from the sea. This allows the US to essentially operate as if though it had a land base in areas where that option is denied at first. Of course, the big issue if to ensure these valuable vessels with all of their very valuable cargo are well defended and "hidden" from any enemy that wouls seek to destroy them.

You can bet there will be significant surface protection in terms of DDGs and FFGs, and that there will also be suifficient SSN assetts protecting them.
 
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Jeff Head

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I alerted the forum to these developments with this thread two and one half years or so ago. A lot has happened, including the launch of the new USNS Lewis Puller, T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1. Here's a picture of it after its launch.


Let's talk again about what the US Navy is doing here, and update things as they stand now as 2015 draws upon us.

The US Navy has been building new Amphibious/Air Assault support and staging vessels for the last few years, while also continuing to construct the Sna Natonion Class LPDs and the America Class LHAs. These new vessels are a part of the US Navy's strategic initiative that calls for Forward-from-the-Sea approach to logistics and support of Amphibious and Air Assault.

The idea is to allow for vessels, which are not built to the same expensive full combat standards as the traditional large LHDs and LHAs, or LPDs and LSTs, to support the operations of the Amphibious/Air Assault fleet by providing for Mobile Loading Platfroms and Afloat Forward Staging Bases. This allows basing of material at sea and tranfer of that material from even larger vessels to the Ampohibious Assault vessel well out to sea away from the actual combat operations.

Such vessels can also serve to conduct training exercises and operations, and non combat vulnerable operations, as well as providing the at-sea basing for material for the full combat vessels to use for provisioning, resupply, etc.

This has resulted in two variants of Mobile Landing Platforms to be built.

The first is the Mobile Landing Platform, or MLP, of which two have already been built.

USNS Montford Point, T-MLP
- Launched in March 2013
USNS John Glenn, T-MLP-2
- Launched in September 2013

An Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant has also been constructed. The first was recently launched. The newly launched vessel is the:

USNS Lewis Puller T-AFSB-1
- Launched in November 2014

A second T-AFSB vessel is also planned and budgeted.

Here are concept pictures showing the differences:



The Standard ESD (MLP) Concept

The ESB (AFSB) Concept
Both variants displace over 60,000 tons and are 785 feet long with a beam of 165 feet. Their standard draft is just under 40 feet. However, both variants can use special ballasting systems to lower themselves in the water.

The standard Mobile Landing Platfrom (MLP) is designed to accomodate three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels in special docking lanes where material, equipment, vehicles (including armor) and men can be off loaded onto the LCAC for transport to the larger vessels. Special ramps are also provided with a special system to allow RORO operations from loarger RORO vessels and directly to the combat vessels when necessary, while underway at sea.

The Afloat Forward Staginbg Base (AFSB) vairant of the MLP has a large hanger and flight deck built over the equipment and material staging area. This allows these vessels to utilize helicopters up to the CH-53E Sea Stallion size to move troops and equipment from bases and larger vessels, to the AFSB, and then on to the combat Amphibious/Air Assault ships. The hanger can accomodate up to two of the large helicopters or threre medium sized helicopters. These vessels do not have the docking lanes for the LCACs but they do have the ramp facilities for onloading and offloadgin equipment, vehicles and personnel while underway at sea.

It is also enviosined that the AFBS version of the vessel will serve as a mother ship for anti-mine warfare operations. It would provide two MH-53 Sea Dragoin anti-mine warfare helcipoptrs to be based on the vessel and special holders for up to four anti-mine sleds to be stored, serviced, and operated. These vessles in the counter-mine mission would also be able to provision and support several smaller mine-warfare vessels, like the Independence Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) or the Avenger Cass anit-mine warfare vessels.

I have a
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which includes high-resolution pictures of the various MPL vessels, including the new Lewis Puller AFSB variant. It also includes a concept picture of each.

Here are pictures of the standard MLP conducting recent, at-sea trials of the LCAC docking and at-sea loading from a USNS RORO





This is really good stuff.
 
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Jeff Head

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USNS-LewisPuller-01.jpg

Sea Waves said:
San Diego July 9, 2015 - USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP 3), Military Sealift Command’s newest ship, departed San Diego yesterday for its post availability shakedown cruise.

Puller was delivered to MSC in May. The shakedown cruise is the first time the ship will sail outside of the San Diego area of operations, as it transits to San Francisco, where it will demonstrate its ability to berth at a civilian pier. Following two days in port, the ship will return to San Diego for a post availability. Puller will travel to Norfolk, Va., later this year for further mission testing, before becoming operational in 2016.

Puller is the third Mobile Landing Platform ship and the first purpose-built afloat forward staging base (AFSB) vessel. Unlike the first two MLPs; USNS Montford Point and USNS John Glenn, that facilitate the seabasing of an amphibious landing force by acting as a floating base or transfer station that can be prepositioned off the target area, Puller will serve as an afloat forward staging base supporting special forces missions, counter piracy/smuggling operations, maritime security operations, and mine clearance, as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

Puller operates under the control of MSC. MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
This is the Afloat Forward Staging Base version of the US Navy's Mobile Landing Platform. Two of each are planned.

Here's a great look at her, sailing next to the USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76, nuclear aircraft carrier. This picture gives you a good idea of her size>

USNS-LewisPuller-04.jpg

...and here she is coming at you head-on.

USNS-LewisPuller-02.jpg
 
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kwaigonegin

Colonel
These MLP's are based off the civilian Alaska class CCs. They picked that design because the dimension just worked out that way and fit the navy's idea of sea basing strategy platform. They are also cheaper because they are not built to the more stringent naval standards for warships.
 

Jeff Head

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kwaigonegin said:
...and fit the navy's idea of sea basing strategy platform. They are also cheaper because they are not built to the more stringent naval standards for warships.
Yep...hence the USNS designation instead of USS.

We now see both types of them plowing the waves.

The true MLP vessels:

USNS-MLP-01.jpg

...and now the AFSB variant.

USNS-AFSB-01.jpg

Right now they intend two of each.
 

kwaigonegin

Colonel
Yep...hence the USNS designation instead of USS.

We now see both types of them plowing the waves.

The true MLP vessels:

View attachment 15634

...and now the AFSB variant.

View attachment 15635

Right now they intend two of each.
Yes, that's correct. USNS designated Ships are manned by civilian crews either working for the MSC or contractors. The ship themselves are all owned by the navy.

With that being said in many cases there are naval personnels on board to 'supervise' certain task. An example would be during RaS where the MSC ship is unreping the carrier you will have navy guys on both sides of the lines.

I believe the Royal Navy is similar also. The RFA or royal fleet aux vessels are crewed by civilians as well.
 

TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
the Functional role of these is really interesting. I like to think of it like the Mulberry harbors used on D-Day in that it serves as a transition of men and material from transport to sea. It allows the RORO to off load directly into landing Craft and then into the sea.
 
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