The U.S. Navy has awarded General Dynamics NASSCO a $498 million contract for the detail design and construction of the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). Under this option, NASSCO will provide the detail design and construction efforts to build the second AFSB of the Mobile Landing Platform-class ships. The work will be performed at NASSCO’s San Diego shipyard and is scheduled to be completed by March 2018.
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 helos), the MLP AFSB will provide a highly capable, innovative and affordable asset to the Navy and Marine Corps.
According to Sam LaGrone, USNI Online Editor at the U.S. Naval Institute, the contract modification that funds the construction follows the first AFSB – USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP-3/AFSB-1) – that 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 new AFSB will most likely based in the Pacific.
Jonathan W. Greenert, Admiral, U.S. Navy said, «The need to clear mines and support special operations forces will not end anytime soon. Moreover, because she is over 40 years old, USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15) will be an interim solution that will need to be replaced in the near term. To provide an AFSB for the long term, we converted one Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and build another from the keel up that adds a flight deck, berthing, fuel storage, equipment storage, and repair spaces. Like Ponce, the new AFSBs will have a rotating crew of civilian mariners and military personnel so they can operate forward almost continuously».
«Thus, AFSBs can support patrol craft, auxiliary boats, helicopters, and special operations forces, providing a base of operations for everything from counter-piracy/smuggling, maritime security, and mine clearing to humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Although a port provides the potential for greater logistical capacity, they may not be readily available when or where they are needed most. AFSBs can operate globally in international waters, providing what may be the only way to support an important mission», added Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert.
The Chief of Naval Operations concluded by saying, «MLP/AFSBs are not a new idea, but with rotating crews and increased capacity, the MLP will dramatically improve our capability where it matters most – forward. They are a key element of my tenet to «Operate Forward», and are essential to effectively support our partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and elsewhere».
General Characteristics, Montford Point Class
Propulsion: Commercial Diesel Electric Propulsion
Length: 239.3 meters (785 feet)
Beam: 50 Meters (164 feet)
Displacement: 78,000 tons (fully loaded)
Draft: 9 meters (fully loaded); 12 meters (load line)
Speed: 15 knots/17 mph/28 km/h
Range: 9500 nautical miles/17594 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 2014
USNS (MLP 4/AFSB-2) – Under construction