Construction of the fourth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship officially began on June 25 at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego, California. Due to the COVID pandemic, the milestone was marked with an informal shipyard ceremony.
Expeditionary Sea Base ships are highly flexible platforms that are used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with flexible distribution.
«This is a great Navy day as we mark the start of construction on the fourth ship in a class of flexible, adaptable ships that will provide our combatant commanders with enhanced capabilities», said Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO), Ships. «The ESB platform has proven to be a valuable addition to the Navy and Marine Corps battle force».
Expeditionary Sea Bases support Aviation Mine Countermeasure and Special Operations Force missions. In addition to the flight deck, the ESB has a hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E Super Stallion equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force, enhanced Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) to support embarked force mission planning and execution and reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment to include mine sleds and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs).
In 2019, the U.S. Navy made the decision to commission all Expeditionary Sea Base ships to allow them to conduct a broader and more lethal mission set, compared to original plans for them to operate with a USNS designation. ESBs are commanded by a Navy O-6 with a hybrid-manned crew of military personnel and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners. This designation provides combatant commanders greater operational flexibility as to how the platform is employed.
In addition to ESB-6, NASSCO is under contract for the construction of ESB-7, with an option for ESB-8, as well as the U.S. Navy’s John Lewis Class Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO 205 – 210).
As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, boats and craft.