The U.S. Navy recently laid the keel for the mobile landing platform (MLP), a new class of ship designed to bridge the gap between sea and shore.
The keel-laying ceremony for the first MLP was held Jan. 19 at San Diego’s General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard.
MLP 1 will be named USNS Montford Point, to honor the approximately 20,000 African American Marine Corps recruits who trained at the North Carolina facility from 1942-1949. Their service prompted President Harry S. Truman to direct the end of segregation in the U.S. military services in 1948. “The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the Corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
“The keel laying is a major milestone for the Montford Point and the MLP class,” said Capt. Henry Stevens, strategic sealift program manager, Program Executive Office, Ships. “The MLP program is benefiting from the Navy/NASSCO team’s high level of design and production-planning maturity.”
The Navy plans to build three MLP ships. They will be operated by Military Sealift Command.
The second MLP will be named USNS John Glenn, after the decorated Marine Corps pilot, distinguished astronaut, Congressional Space Medal of Honor recipient, and U.S. senator. “Glenn flew 59 combat missions during World War II and a combined 90 missions over the course of two tours in the Korean War,” according to a Defense Department statement.
The final ship of the three planned, the USNS Lewis B. Puller, “is named in honor of Lt. Gen. Lewis ‘Chesty’ Puller, the most decorated Marine in history and the only one to be awarded five Navy Crosses,” the statement continues.
A Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman says Montford Point is expected to deliver in fiscal year 2013 and be operational in fiscal year 2015.
The keel was “authenticated” by Pat Mills, wife of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration, who welded her initials into the keel plate, symbolically verifying that the keel of USNS Montford Point had been “truly and fairly laid,” according to naval tradition.
The MLP is critical to the Navy and Marine Corps “seabasing” concept, which provides the capability to exploit the sea lines of communication and maneuver space beyond territorial waters to support sustained operations.
According to Maj. Gen. Timothy C. Hanifen, director Expeditionary Warfare (OPNAV N85), “Seabasing cannot work without connectors, which bring manpower, material and machines from the sea base to the objective.”
MLP will use float-on/float-off (Flo/Flo) technology and a reconfigurable mission deck to transfer vehicles and equipment at sea and interface with surface connectors to deliver the vehicles and equipment ashore.
“In order to accomplish seabasing, you must have a platform that provides a surface interface between large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) prepositioning ships and landing craft surface connectors,” says Hanifen. “That platform is the mobile landing platform (MLP).”
The relatively rapid production of the MLP will be due in part to a downgrading of requirements, including the requirements to land helicopters, embark LCAC/SSC hovercraft, and employ the Test Article Vehicle Transfer System (TAVTS).
“MLP will provide the core capabilities to transfer vehicles and equipment at-sea and interface with surface connectors to deliver the vehicles and equipment ashore,” according to a NAVSEA statement. “The MLP will leverage float-on/ float-off technology and a reconfigurable mission deck to maximize capability.
“The platform in its basic form possess[es] add-on modules that support a vehicle staging area, sideport ramp, large mooring fenders and up to three landing craft air cushioned vessel lanes to support its core requirements. Ship utility services support to the mission deck will enable the flexibility to incorporate potential future platform upgrades which could include additional capabilities such as berthing, medical, command and control, mission planning, vehicle transfer system, a connected replenishment, a container handling crane and an aviation operating spot.”
“In today’s challenging fiscal environment shipbuilders must continue to provide our Navy customer with competitive pricing and fair value,” said Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. “With the Mobile Landing Platform, NASSCO is meeting that challenge once again. The Navy and Marines will be getting a ship with significant capability at approximately one-third the cost of the Navy’s original plan.”