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USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-1)
USNS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-1)
An artist's conception of the Afloat Forward Staging Base.
Namesake: Lewis B. Puller, Sr.[1][2]
Awarded: February 2012[3]
Builder: NASSCO – San Diego, California[1]
Cost: $134.9 million US$ (FY 2014)[4]
Laid down: 5 November 2013[1][5]
Launched: 6 November 2014[6]
Sponsored by: Martha Puller Downs[7]
Christened: 7 February 2015[7]
Status: Delivered on 2 June 2015[8]
Notes: Operated by Military Sealift Command
General characteristics
Displacement: Approx. 78,000 long tons (87,000 short tons) fully loaded[9]
Length: 764 ft (233 m)[10][Note 1]
Beam: 164 ft (50 m)[11]
Draft: 25.5 ft (7.8 m)[11]
Installed power: Diesel-electric[11]
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)[1][11]
Range: 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi)[1]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Accommodation barge (298 mission-related personnel max.)[3]
Complement: 34 civilian mariners[11]
Armament: None[11]
Aircraft carried: Up to 4 CH-53 heavy-lift transport helicopters[Note 2]
Aviation facilities: Helicopter landing deck and hangar[3]
Notes: Afloat forward staging base variant[3]

USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-1, ex-T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1)[13] is the first purpose-built afloat forward staging base (AFSB) vessel for the United States Navy. It will be one of two AFSB variants of the U.S. Navy's planned fleet of Mobile Landing Platform vessels. Lewis B. Puller is slated to replace the USS Ponce (AFSB-(I)-15) currently operating with the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in 2016.[1][5]

Background[edit | edit source]

Lewis B. Puller and its sister ship (MLP-4) will differ significantly from the U.S. Navy's first two Mobile Landing Platform support vessels, the Montford Point and John Glenn. These two ships act as a floating base or transfer station that can be prepositioned off the target area.[14] The Lewis B. Puller and MLP-4 will serve as afloat forward staging bases (AFSB) to support a variety of low-intensity missions. This allows more expensive, high-value amphibious warfare ships and surface combatant warships to be re-tasked for more demanding operational missions for the U.S. Navy.[3] These AFSB variants are slated to operate in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean.[10]

Lewis B. Puller will be operated by the Military Sealift Command. Its designation prefix will be "USNS."[14] The crew will consist of civilian mariners under contract with U.S. maritime unions. Lewis B. Puller is intended to replace the USS Ponce, the U.S. Navy's interim AFSB support ship.[3]

Design features[edit | edit source]

The overall design of the USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) is based on the hull of the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker.[10] The Puller will be outfitted with support facilities for its mine-sweeping, special operations, and other expeditionary missions. An accommodation barge will also be carried to support up to 298 additional mission-related personnel, including special-operations teams.[3][5] The Puller's aviation facilities include a flight deck with landing spots for two heavy-lift transport CH-53 helicopters, as well as additional deck space for two more CH-53s. The Puller will also have a helicopter hangar, an ordnance storage magazine, underway replenishment facilities, and deck space for mission-related equipment storage, including up to four Mk 105 minesweeping hydrofoil sleds.[3][5]

GE Power Conversion will provide complete electric power, propulsion, and vessel automation systems for all MLP ships. This integrated power system (IPS) will also involve the ship's tandem propulsion motor powered by variable-frequency drives, Harmonic Filters, and high-voltage switchboards.[12]

Embarked aircraft[edit | edit source]

On 16 January 2014, at the Surface Naval Association's national symposium, the head of NAVSEA's Strategic and Theater Sealift program, Captain Henry Stevens, announced that the Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will be evaluated for potential operations on board the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant of the Mobile Landing Platform. Currently, the testing and certification of MH-53E helicopters for minesweeping operations from AFSB support ships are slated to begin during fiscal year 2016. Additionally, Captain Stevens noted that the F-35B STOVL strike fighter was not currently being considered for AFSB operations because of concerns that exhaust heat damaging the flight decks of U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships.[15]

Namesake[edit | edit source]

USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) is named after Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, USMC. A distinguished combat veteran of the Banana Wars, World War II and the Korean War, Puller is the most decorated individual in the history of the United States Marine Corps.[1][2]

Construction history[edit | edit source]

Post-launch (Nov. 6, 2014)

The United States Navy ordered MLP-3 in February 2012 as part of the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation for the U.S. Department of Defense via the National Defense Sealift Fund (NDSF).[3][4]

The keel-laying ceremony for the USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) took place at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, California, on 5 November 2013. The keel of the Puller was authenticated by Elizabeth Glueck, the wife of Lieutenant General Kenneth J. Glueck, Jr., the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.[1][10][16] Mrs. Glueck welded her initials onto a steel plate that will be permanently affixed to the ship, remaining a part of the Lewis B. Puller throughout its service life.[16]

The USNS Lewis B. Puller was launched and floated-off at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard on 6 November 2014 (pictured). The launching dock was slowly flooded with water until it could freely float by itself.[6] The ship was christened on 7 February 2015, and it was delivered on 12 June 2015.[8][17]

The Lewis B. Puller set sail from San Diego to Norfolk via Cape Horn, arriving 13 October 2015 to begin its testing and evaluation phase. The ship is currently configured for mine-sweeping support but is also under consideration to support special operations forces (SOF) missions. Puller is slated to join the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in late 2016 or early 2017.[18]

Ship re-designation[edit | edit source]

Effective 4 September 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus officially announced the creation of a new ship designation, "E" for expeditionary support. Mobile Landing Platforms (MLPs) will be called Expeditionary Transfer Dock, or ESD; and the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant of the MLP will be called Expeditionary Mobile Base, or ESB. The new designation was pursuant to a memorandum sent to Secretary Mabus from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert dated 31 August 2015.[13]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. NavSourve.org lists the overall length as 785 ft (239 m).
  2. MV-22 tilt-rotor transport aircraft are under consideration. See Embarked aircraft section of this article for details.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "Keel Laid for Future USNS Lewis B. Puller". NNS131105-20. Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications. 5 November 2013. http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=77482. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 James Marconi (5 January 2012). "Navy Names First Three Mobile Landing Platform Ships". Military Sealift Command Public Affairs. United States Navy. http://www.msc.navy.mil/N00p/pressrel/press12/press01.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "U.S. Navy Program Guide 2013". United States Navy. 6 November 2013. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/policy/seapower/npg13/top-npg13.pdf. Retrieved 5 December 2013. "See pages 101–102" 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) – Afloat Forward Staging Base". Military. GlobalSecurity.org. 15 November 2013. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/mlp-afsb.htm. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Richard Scott (16 February 2014). "US MLP completes acceptance trials". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Jane's Information Group. http://www.janes.com/article/34012/us-mlp-completes-acceptance-trials. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 GD NASSCO Successfully Launched 1st Afloat Forwarding Staging Base (AFSB) variant MLP - Navyrecognition.com, 12 November 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 GD NASSCO Christened the 1st Afloat Forward Staging Base variant MLP USNS Lewis B. Puller - Navyrecognition.com, 7 February 2015
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sam LaGrone (12 June 2014). "Afloat Forward Staging Base Lewis B. Puller Delivers to Navy". USNI News. United States Naval Institute. http://news.usni.org/2015/06/12/afloat-forward-staging-base-lewis-b-puller-delivers-to-navy. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  9. "Mobile Landing Platform – MLP". Fact Sheet. United States Navy. 14 November 2013. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4600&tid=675&ct=4. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Updated: Keel Laid for First Dedicated Afloat Forward Staging Base". USNI News Blog. United States Naval Institute. 6 November 2013. http://news.usni.org/2013/11/06/keel-laid-first-dedicated-afloat-forward-staging-base. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 "USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3)". USNI News Blog. NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive. 29 March 2013. http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/88/8803.htm. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Lauren Maffeo (3 August 2011). "General Dynamics NASSCO Commissions Converteam to Supply Power Systems to US Navy". GovCon Executive. http://www.govconexecutive.com/2011/08/general-dynamics-commissions-converteam-to-supply-power-systems-to-u-s-navy/. Retrieved 5 December 2013. "General Dynamics NASSCO has commissioned Converteam to supply integrated power systems to the U.S. Navy, a move that follows the engineering solutions company's multimillion-dollar contract to design and supply the complete electric power, propulsion and vessel automation system for the Mobile Landing Platform program." 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Navy Renames Three Ship Classes, Creates ‘Expeditionary’ Designator in Naming System". USNI News Blog. United States Naval Institute. 4 September 2015. http://news.usni.org/2015/09/04/navy-renames-three-ship-classes-creates-expeditionary-designator-in-naming-system. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "The US Navy's Mobile Landing Platform Ships". Defense Industry Daily. Watershed Publishing. 18 August 2010. http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/The-US-Navys-Mobile-Landing-Platform-Ships-06525/. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  15. Carlo Muñoz (16 January 2014). "SNA 2014: Navy Eyes Osprey Flights for AFSB Fleet". United States Naval Institute. http://news.usni.org/2014/01/16/sna-2014-navy-eyes-osprey-flights-afsb-fleet?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sna-2014-navy-eyes-osprey-flights-afsb-fleet. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  16. "General Dynamics NASSCO Delivers USNS Lewis B. Puller MLP 3 AFSB". 14 June 2015. http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/year-2015-news/june-2015-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/2825-general-dynamics-nassco-delivers-usns-lewis-b-puller-mlp-3-afsb.html. 
  17. Megan Eckstein (2 November 2015). "Expeditionary Mobile Base Chesty Puller May Receive SOF Upgrades Before 5th Fleet Deployment". USNI News. United States Naval Institute. http://news.usni.org/2015/11/02/expeditionary-mobile-base-chesty-puller-may-receive-sof-upgrades-before-5th-fleet-deployment. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 

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