Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MLP Unveiled

General Dynamics-NASSCO launched the Navy's Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) in San Diego today.  NAASCO is on contract to build two of these "piers at sea" for about $372 million a piece.

The ship will be a key node in future sea-to-shore operations for the Military Sea-lift Command, with the ability to launch three LCAC's from side ramps.  More and more, the design and employment lines between pre-positioning and amphibious shipping seem to be  blurred.

The idea of using the MLP as a future afloat forward staging base to replace USS Ponce has also been tossed around in Navy circles.  Ponce earned her keep in the Arabian Gulf this summer as a mothership for international mine-hunting forces during IMCMEX 12.  She remains deployed hosting an interesting range of capabilities, including embarked ScanEagle UAVs and riverine craft. 

Looking at the huge amount of flat deck space on Montford Point, one immediately thinks flight deck.  What are some other ways the USN could employ these new ships?

UPDATE: One of our astute readers has pointed out that the Navy is not just considering the MLP as a future AFSB.  In fact, the Navy’s FY13 budget submission proposes building third and fourth MLPs modified to serve as AFSBs to replace Ponce in FIFTH Fleet, with the other AFSB to serve in a different theater.
 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Oct. 26, 2012) U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 2 prepare to conduct patrol operations in the Arabian Gulf while aboard Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15). RIVRON 2 is deployed with Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.7, which provides maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jamar Perry/Released)

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.

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