Lewis B. Puller, the first purpose built at-sea platform for Mine CounterMeasure (MCM) helicopters and Special Operations Forces (SOF) was christened at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, California on February 7, 2015, according to the company. U.S. Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
The Afloat Forward Staging Base – USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/ASFB-1) – was formally named in a ceremony at NASSCO ahead of an anticipated delivery to U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) in September. The ship is capable of supporting additional missions including: counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions and Marine Corps crisis response.
The first two ships (USNS Montford Point and USNS John Glenn) have been designated Mobile Landing Platforms (MLP) and will operate as an interface between MSC (Military Sealift Command) 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 2014, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded NASSCO $498 million to start construction on the second AFSB.
The MLP AFSB – based on the hull of an Alaska-class crude oil tanker – is a flexible platform and a key element in the Navy’s large-scale airborne mine countermeasures mission. With accommodations for 250 personnel and a large helicopter flight deck (capable of fielding MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helicopters), the MLP AFSB will provide a highly capable, innovative and affordable asset to the Navy and Marine Corps.
USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) was launched at the San Diego yard on November 6, 2014. Lewis B. Puller is slated to become operational in 2015 and will likely replace the current AFSB stand in – USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15). The second ship (MLP-4/AFSB-2) will most likely based in the Pacific.
General Characteristics, Montford Point Class
Propulsion: Commercial Diesel Electric Propulsion
Length: 785 feet/239.3 m
Beam: 164 feet/50 m
Displacement: 78,000 tons (fully loaded)
Draft: 30 feet/9 m (fully loaded); 40 feet/12 m (load line)
Speed: 15 knots/17 mph/28 km/h
Range: 9,500 nautical miles/17,594 km
Crew: 34 Military Sealift Command personnel
Accommodations: 250 personnel
USNS Montford Point (MLP-1)
USNS John Glenn (MLP-2)
USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) – Launched – November 6, 2014
USNS (MLP-4/AFSB-2) – Under construction