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The revised MLP, USNS Lewis B. Puller

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  • #16
    By: Sam LaGrone
    February 6, 2015 12:49 PM

    The first purpose built at-sea platform for mine countermeasure (MCM) helicopters and special operations forces (SOF) is set to be christened at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif. on Saturday, according to the company.

    The Afloat Forward Staging Base – USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/ASFB-1) – will be formally named in a ceremony at NASSCO ahead of an anticipated delivery to U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) in September.

    U.S. Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford will speak at the ceremony.

    The ship is the third NASSCO ship to be based on an Alaska-class crude carrier designed to provide at-sea support for the Navy’s MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helos and for SOF forces.

    The first two ships have been designated Mobile Landing Platforms (MLP) and will operate as an interface between MSC cargo ships and Navy landing craft to expand the projection power of the U.S. Marine Corps.

    The two planned ships in the class plan 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 Middle East AFSB.

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

    Navy to Christen Afloat Forward Staging Base Puller on Saturday - USNI News


    • #17
      Posted: February 12, 2015 10:07 AM

      NASSCO Readies Newly Christened USNS Lewis B. Puller for Sea Trials

      By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent

      SAN DIEGO — Dozens of plastic-wrapped mattresses stacked on its mission deck this week hinted at the progress in readying USNS Lewis B. Puller for its next important milestone of sea trials.

      “We are about 96 percent complete,” Dennis DuBard, General Dynamics NASSCO spokesman, said during a Feb. 9 tour of the vessel, berthed at NASSCO’s shipyard across a small channel adjacent to San Diego Naval Base. “It’s coming together.”

      Folding chairs remained aboard, remnants of its Feb. 7 christening attended by builder representatives, shipyard workers and naval officials hailing the Navy’s first afloat forward staging base (AFSB). While the third in the class of mobile landing platform (MLP) ships, the 764-foot-long Puller is the first designed with a flight deck and a flexible, multipurpose mission deck to support operations including mine countermeasures and special operations.

      NASSCO plans to deliver the ship to the Navy in June, if all goes well during builder’s trials in April and acceptance trials in May, DuBard said. Sea trials will take place off Southern California when the crew gets Puller underway to ensure the ship’s systems, from lights to pumps and engines, work as planned. “The operational side to that really comes more once you get delivery to the Navy,” he said, before crossing the brow and stepping onto the main mission deck.

      The mission deck covers the area below the flight deck and provides the ship with a wide expanse and room for storage of minesweeping sleds, vehicles, equipment and magazine spaces. Two cranes, at 12.5-ton and 40-ton capabilities, provide lift for minesweeping sleds, rigid-hull inflatable boats and other heavy equipment. Above is the flight deck, which sits on 13 stanchions and hovers about three or four stories above the mission deck.

      The expanse gives the Puller a unique look among the ships operated by the Navy and Military Sealift Command. DuBard likened it to “a patio cover with a flight deck.” Shipyard workers during construction had fashioned the flight deck together from eight blocks set into place by two massive cranes.

      The flight deck is designed to support four helicopters, with two landing spots and two spots to stow MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters. At the forward end, on 05 level, is a hangar bay large enough to store two MH-53E helicopters with wings folded or one helicopter with its massive wings fully extended. The bay is tall enough to enable mechanics to work on the helicopter engines and rotor blades.

      “The ship is night-vision compatible. It is set up for night flights,” DuBard said, noting several lights and visual landing aids outside the helicopter control tower that sits above the hangar bay.

      The hangar bay is part of the large, eight-level “accommodations” block near the bow. It provides berthing, staterooms, offices and briefing rooms, supply and repair spaces, helicopter tower, fuel storage, a galley and mess spaces for 250 military personnel. The machinery space includes chilled water and evaporator systems to produce fresh water from saltwater for drinking and cooling in the forward block.

      Berthing spaces are nearly identical to other ships in the Navy, with “coffin” racks stacked three high and lounge areas with card tables.

      ”They are pretty much what you’d find on any Navy ship,” DuBard said, standing in a 24-person berthing area with an adjacent shower and restroom head facility.

      The smell of fresh paint hung in the air. Bunks were bare but soon will get the new mattresses, part of the furnishings the builder provides.

      The ship has a chiefs’ mess and officers’ mess. In the enlisted mess, on the 04 level, chairs awaited a dozen tables bolted to the floor while a handful of workers finished some detailed work on the stainless steel equipment. Some of the officer staterooms are sizable, with attached private heads. In fact, there are several staterooms, largely to accommodate a larger number of commanders expected to deploy depending on the mission package.

      The basic operation of the AFSB ship is the same as the first two mobile landing platform ships. Puller “essentially is still an MLP,” said DuBard, a retired captain and former commanding officer of amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu. “The underwater hull is exactly the same.”

      It retains ballast capabilities similar to the first two MLPs, which have a module to launch and recover air-cushioned landing craft with several inches of water across the deck.

      The AFSB represents what Navy officials talk about “payload over platform,” DuBard said. “This is the classic example. It’s more about the payload than it is about the platform itself, in that you can add the payload capability without altering the platform,” he said. “It’s a very adaptable ship.”

      Officials expect Puller will replace USS Ponce, a former amphibious transport dock ship deployed to the Middle East and serving as a testbed platform and an interim AFSB supporting mine countermeasures and other missions.

      “This is a very adaptable ship that they can use for any number of things,” DuBard said.

      NASSCO will build the second AFSB — and the fourth ship in the MLP class — with a $498 million contract issued in December. Construction is expected to begin later this year, and the ship will closely resemble Puller.

      “I think most of the changes are going to be below deck,” he said, adding, “We are still in the detailed design phase.”
      SEAPOWER Magazine Online


      • #18
        This hi-res. photo illustrates the size of the MPL 3 to CVN-76.


        • #19
          A future resident of the South China Sea?

          Posted: October 14, 2015 3:58 PM

          General Dynamics NASSCO Begins Construction on Second Expeditionary Base Mobile Ship

          NASSCOSAN DIEGO — General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, began construction on the second ship of the U.S. Navy’s newly reclassified Expeditionary Base Mobile (ESB) program, the company announced in an Oct. 14 release.

          The 784-foot ship will be configured with a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, mission planning spaces and accommodations for up to 250 personnel. The ship will be capable of supporting multiple missions including air mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions and U.S. Marine Corps crisis response. It will also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters, and will be upgraded to support MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

          In 2011, General Dynamics NASSCO was awarded a contract from the Navy to design and build two mobile landing platforms (MLP), USNS Montford Point (ESD 1) and USNS John Glenn (ESD 2). MLP was recently reclassified by the Navy as Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESD).

          In 2012, a third MLP, the USNS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 1), was added to the contract and reconfigured as an ESB, or formerly known as a MLP Afloat Forward Staging Base. All three ships have been delivered by NASSCO to the U.S. Navy.

          Last edited by surfgun; 14 Oct 15,, 22:51.


          • #20
            Here is a news report of Lewis B. Puller arriving at Norfolk.



            • #21
              Originally posted by dundonrl View Post
              since these CIVMAR Sailors are unionized, what happens if they go on strike?

              Many union collective bargaining agreements include clauses for no-strike, no-lockout, and mandatory arbitration.

              Law may also disallow some things and/or require some other things.

              And POTUS has more than a little executive power after self-determining some situation is an emergency.

              Google found this, which I suspect may apply, or something similar likely applies.


              2011 MARAD RRF Program Ship Manager Contract Current through HQ Administrative Modification – October 2011

              {{{ snip }}}

              5.2 Shipboard Crewing

              5.2.1 ARTICLES FOR NEGOTIATION: The Ship Manager shall provide the following for ALL RRF Ships through his negotiated employee agreements:

     NO STRIKE Clause. Recognizing that critical sensitive services are required under this contract, it is essential that continuous operation of the ships be maintained. Therefore, there shall be no work stoppages of any type, including but not limited to strikes, sympathy strikes, boycotts, slowdowns, sickouts, primary picketing, secondary picketing, protests against unfair labor practices, contract violations, social or political protests and any other protests or interruption or interference with work onboard the vessel(s) for the full term of any voyage or any subsequent extension thereof.

     RIGHT TO SELECT Clause. A right to approve or reject each licensed and unlicensed member.

     RIGHT TO FIRE Clause. An agreement permitting the Ship Manager with the right to fire any licensed and unlicensed member.

     RIGHT TO RESTRICT FUTURE EMPLOYMENT Clause. Any crewmember discharged by the Ship Manager for cause, shall not be eligible for future employment onboard an RRF vessel.

              5.2.2 REQUIRED MEDICAL INOCULATIONS: The Ship Manager shall inform its labor sources for crewing the vessel and potential crewmembers that, as a condition of employment on a Ready Reserve Force vessel, all crewmembers are required to receive certain immunizations/inoculations (see Section 5.5.1).

              5.2.3 The Maritime Administration, as the vessel owner, reserves the right to approve in advance or request the removal of any RRF vessel Master. The request for removal of a Master will only be made by the Director, Office of Ship Operations through the PCO. No other individual is authorized to do this. Please note: in the past 21 years, the Maritime Administration has exercised this option twice.

     The Ship Manager is solely liable for any amounts agreed to in its collective bargaining agreements or employee labor agreements and any revisions thereto. Simply because the CBA is submitted as part of a Government contract proposal does not obligate the Government in any manner to the contents therein. J4.1.16

              5.3 Labor Disruption

              5.3.1 Critical, sensitive services are required under the terms of this contract, and it is essential that the continuous operation of the ship be maintained. The Ship Manager submitted with its proposal, and must maintain throughout the contract period, a contingency plan adequate to ensure that there is no interruption of contract service due to labor disruption or phase-in/out of crew. Such plan shall remain continuously in effect throughout the period of performance under this contract, including any options hereunder, and may consist of or include any or all of the following:

              (1) CBAs with no-strike, no lock-out provisions. (2) Employment agreement. (3) Plans to demonstrate the continuous availability of adequate numbers of qualified personnel in a labor pool to perform services required under this contract. J4,1,15

              {{{ snip }}}
              Last edited by JRT; 23 Oct 15,, 14:11.


              • #22
                By: Megan Eckstein
                November 2, 2015 2:51 PM

                ONBOARD USNS LEWIS B. PULLER – The Navy’s newest Afloat Forward Staging Base may include special operations capabilities when it makes its maiden voyage to the Middle East in late 2016 or early 2017, if the Navy chooses to make the much-desired upgrades to the ship after a year-long test and certification period.

                USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3), the first of three planned Afloat Forward Staging Bases – recently redesignated the Expeditionary Mobile Base, or ESB – delivered to the Navy on June 12, 2015, and sailed from San Diego to Norfolk via the southern tip of South America. Since arriving in Norfolk on Oct. 13, the ship has gotten started on a hefty test and evaluation schedule.

                There are still many unknowns about the ship to be worked out in the next year. Chief Mate Anton Clemens, Puller’s first officer who also serves as the damage control team lead for Military Sealift Command’s Afloat Training Team West, said the Navy still needs to understand how the ship handles various sea and wind conditions before finalizing the operational envelop. Though the Expeditionary Mobile Base is based off the design of the Mobile Landing Platform, (recently redesignated the Expeditionary Transfer Dock, or ESD) the addition of a flight deck makes the ship more top-heavy and therefore less stable in heavy seas, he told USNI News Oct. 28 during a tour of the ship at Naval Station Norfolk.

                Perhaps the biggest question, though, is whether the ship will deploy to U.S. Central Command with a mine countermeasures-only mission set or with SOF capabilities as well.

                Jay Stefany, executive director of the amphibious, auxiliary and sealift office in the Program Executive Office for Ships, said Oct. 28 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Portsmouth, Va., that the ship was designed and built with SOF capabilities in mind.

                “The baseline requirement, the threshold requirement, is MCM capability. The ship class does have an objective capability for SOF-type missions and other potential missions,” he said during a panel discussion.
                “So the ship is being built to the threshold, as most programs are, but after delivery we’re working with the fleet and the sponsors to put some upgrades into the ship that would allow it to do the SOF capability and come up to, if not all the way to the objective, a good chunk of the way to the objective. But that’s after the ship delivers for each of the three ships.”

                According to a draft schedule obtained by USNI News, Puller would complete all its testing and certifications by August 2016, with an optional 120-day post shakedown availability and then an optional SOF backfit installation, test and certification, and training period before being deemed ready for tasking.

                It is unclear when the Navy would have to make a decision on going through with the SOF upgrades before sending Puller to U.S. 5th Fleet for its maiden deployment.

                Strategic and Theater Lift Program Manager Capt. Henry Stevens said during the same panel discussion that the requirements development process for the Expeditionary Mobile Base took longer than planned to allow for a detailed discussion on how to keep the ship both affordable and flexible for future upgrades. The process began in December 2011, and the capability development document was not validated until March 2013, he said.

                “We had our configuration steering board, that’s where we’ve got the usual suspects, the threes and four-stars in the room. They finished that up in September [2012] and it really then went to a place where it was at a high-level four-star discussion for about six months to make sure that we had it right,” Stevens said.
                “And a lot of that turned out to be, hey, in those thresholds let’s make sure we have space, weight and select services built in so that we can easily make those future investments. So I saw this process go from just being a standard threshold and a standard objective to being, I’ve got a cost cap, recognize what I can afford today, but please be smart about what you’re designing – and it went beyond please, it went, we’ll go ahead and make that part of your threshold.”

                “So our ship is built with the opportunity to do that very easily and quickly, so the modular aspects of the ship you see and the opportunity to make low-level investments to add capability in bandwidth, additional radio, land some more helicopters, different kinds of boats, whatever it happens to be, is built into the ship, and I don’t have to add another generator or air conditioning, whatever to get it there,” he continued.
                “So I think you would find we walked through that process fairly rigorously and methodically and at the highest levels made that decision.”

                The ship has a 40-year expected service life, and “there’s lots of ideas out there that go beyond the objective [capability], and I would say there’s landscape and real estate to do that on the ship,” Stevens said.

                Clemens told USNI News that the ship is currently focused on MH-53E helicopter operations, but that the flight deck and hangar could also accommodate the MH-60 or other smaller helicopters. He said there has been talk of upgrading the ship to accommodate the V-22 Osprey – and Stevens said it would take minimal engineering to accomplish that.

                “There’s virtually no engineering work, modifications to the ship to support V-22 two-spot operations,” Stevens told USNI News after the panel discussion.
                “Some outfitting and some specialized equipment that’s specific to V-22 as opposed to a different type of aircraft, but it’s very simple. So the Navy’s looking closely at adding that to the list of things if it’s a low-cost jump in capability, and when they should do that.”

                Stevens said the Navy may also look at increasing how many helicopters can operate on the flight deck at a time. Currently, the deck is designed with two parking spots and two operating spots – along with space for two helos inside the hangar – but he said the Navy could decide to convert all four spots to operational spots if needed. The front of the flight deck leads into the hangar, which is capable of performing maintenance as extensive as pulling out and replacing the engine, Clemens said.

                Underneath the flight deck, which runs the length between the forward house and the aft house, is the mission deck. Whereas the original Expeditionary Transfer Dock can submerge to allow landing craft to pull onto the ship, that capability was disabled in the Expeditionary Mobile Base. Instead, a large crane carries small boats, towed arrays and unmanned vehicles from the mission deck into the water. The crane can carry 11 metric tons, and Stevens said the crane can move a 41-foot boat in up to sea state 3. If the Navy were to add additional mission sets to the ship class, Stevens said his office would look into what modifications, if any, would be needed to accommodate other small boats on the mission deck.

                The Expeditionary Mobile Base will host a civilian mariner crew of 44 and a military crew of about 250 – about 100 in the operational crew and 150 in the aviation and MCM detachments, Clemens said. Civilian mariner quarters are in the aft house, with single-man quarters located under the bridge of the ship. The military crew live in the forward house, in a combination of 12-, 15- and 30-man rooms, plus suites for three sets of commanding officers and executive officers.

                Clemens said he expects Puller will operate in a “very very similar” manner as the interim Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The operational military crew will likely stay on the ship for a two- or three-year tour, while the aviation detachment may or may not rotate out, depending on combatant commander needs, he said, adding that that was one more thing the Navy needs to finalize in the coming year.

                A second ESB is under construction at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, and a third is planned to be procured in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

                Given the flexibility of the ship and the ability to add on if needed, Director of Expeditionary Warfare Maj. Gen. Chris Owens told USNI News at the NDIA conference that the combatant commanders are already laying claims to the unbuilt ships in the class.

                “The demand for that right now is so high, CENTCOM has got their hooks in this one (Puller) but both the [U.S. European Command] and [U.S. Africa Command] commander are asking for that ship, and if not that, they’re getting their bids in early to get the next one committed to them,” he said.
                “They know they can employ it nearly full time.”


                • #23
                  Did anyone notice the duct work in that hanger? It looks like it may have a powerful air-conditioning system.


                  • #24
                    Posted: January 13, 2016 4:23 PM

                    First Expeditionary Mobile Base Ship Conducts Testing off East Coast

                    By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor

                    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy’s first expeditionary mobile base ship (T-ESB), USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), has been conducting testing off the U.S East Coast, including its first underway replenishment.

                    Speaking to an audience Jan. 13 at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium, Capt. Henry Stevens III, the Navy’s program manager for strategic and theater sealift, said the ESB was delivered three months early and made a transit around Cape Horn to Norfolk, Va.

                    The ESB, built be NASSCO in San Diego, is a modification of the Montford Point-class expeditionary transfer dock ship (T-ESD). The ESB retains some of the ability of the ESD to ballast low in the water, but is not a requirement for its missions, Stevens said. Instead, it features a helicopter landing pad with four deck spots and berthing for 250 expeditionary personnel such as Marines, as well as command-and-control facilities for such capabilities as special operations and mine countermeasures.

                    NASSCO is building a second ESB (T-ESB 4) for delivery in March 2018, and the Navy plans to procure a third (T-ESB 5) this year. Stevens said a capabilities upgrade package will be back-fitted on T-ESB 3 and T-ESB 4 and forward-fitted on T-ESB 5. The capabilities will include increased bandwidth and improved aviation and command-and-control capabilities.

                    Posted: January 15, 2016 11:45 AM

                    Navy Secretary Names Second Expeditionary Sea Base Ship

                    WASHINGTON — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that the name of the Navy’s newest Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship, T-ESB 4, will be USNS Hershel "Woody” Williams during a Jan. 14 ceremony in Charleston, W.Va.

                    Williams, the ship’s namesake, was born in West Virginia and joined the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1944, after serving in Guadalcanal and Guam, he joined the campaign in Iwo Jima. Two days after arriving on the island, Williams picked up a 70-pound flamethrower and walked ahead of his infantry’s tanks for four hours clearing their path of enemy machine gun fire. President Harry S. Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor two years later for his actions.

                    Williams served during the Battle of Iwo Jima until he was wounded in March 1945. He returned to the United States, was awarded a Purple Heart and released from active duty. Later, he served in the Marine Corps Reserves for 17 years.

                    Williams is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

                    The new 784-foot-long vessel will feature a 52,000 square foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces.

                    Able to accommodate up to 250 personnel, the new ESB ship will support multiple missions, such as air mine countermeasures, counterpiracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster-relief and crisis response operations.

                    In addition, the vessel will be capable of supporting MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters, with an option for future upgrades to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

                    USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams will be constructed by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2018.


                    • #25
                      According to this article it would appear that no defense weapons are to be fitted (this appears shortsighted as some defensive weapons should be fitted for transit of an area such as the Straits of Hormuz, even while being escorted).

                      Jan 14, 2016 | by Hope Hodge Seck
                      Global demand is high for new sea-basing platforms that can take some of the operational pressure off of amphibious ships, the Marine general in charge of the Navy's Expeditionary Warfare Division said Tuesday.

                      Speaking to an audience at the Surface Navy Association symposium near Washington, D.C., Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens said the expeditionary sea base and expeditionary transfer dock, both variants on a modified civilian oil tanker design, were expected to take on humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief missions, as well as embassy security reinforcement and noncombatant evacuation missions in an uncontested environment.

                      Unlike the expeditionary transfer dock, the so-called ESB is equipped with a flight deck with room for two CH-53 helicopters. With limited berthing space for Marine units, the platform may be an attractive stopgap to support the overworked amphibs.

                      "I emphasized they're not warships," Owens said. "They don't have the guns. They don't have the defense capabilities. They don't have the trained Navy crews ready to fight in the ship and keep it alive but they can provide great capability for lower-end crisis response and to allow [geographic combatant commanders] to employ those scarce [amphibious] assets."

                      These mission sets represent a significant portion of the tasks that might be assigned to a traditional amphibious ship, and would come in addition to the sea-basing vessels' primary mission of supporting prepositioning forces at sea.

                      The first ESB, formerly known as an afloat forward staging base, is the USNS Lewis B. Puller. That ship was delivered to the Navy in June and is completing testing and evaluation in Norfolk, Virginia, ahead of a deployment as soon as this year to replace the amphibious transport dock Ponce in the Persian Gulf. The platform may receive upgrades to accommodate special operations forces ahead of its deployment, according to reports from USNI News.

                      Owens said a destination had yet to be chosen for the next two ESBs, which have yet to be named. General Dynamics Corp.'s NASSCO unit began construction on ESB-4 in October, and a contract for ESB-5 may be awarded within fiscal 2017.

                      "There's already a lot of demand for ESB 4 and 5," Owens said. "It will remain for the [geographic combatant commanders] to state their case but we do expect demand to continue as the ships prove their utility."


                      • #26
                        Flight deck certification.



                        • #27
                          That thing has a lot of deck space!


                          • #28
                            Looks like limited hangar space though. I wonder if it can operate V-22, AV-8's or F-35's?


                            • #29
                              Look at the link in post #22, the hanger is substantial. The deck is to be rated for Osprey, no plans for fixed wing aircraft.


                              • #30
                                Thanks- I also searched a few images with a better view of the hanger. I assume 2 CH-53 will fit in it.