New ship for the US Navy

Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)/Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB)

The Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) and Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship classes are highly flexible platforms that may be 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.

The ESD and ESB ships were originally called the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and the MLP Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), respectively. In September 2015, the Secretary of the Navy re-designated these hulls to conform to traditional three-letter ship designations. The design of these ships is based on the Alaska class crude oil carrier, which was built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO). Leveraging commercial designs ensures design stability and lower development costs.

The USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2) are configured with the Core Capability Set (CCS), which consists of a vehicle staging area, vehicle transfer ramp, large mooring fenders and up to three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessel lanes to support its core equipment transfer requirements. With a 9,500 nautical mile range at a sustained speed of 15 knots, these approximately 80,000 tons, 785-foot ships leverage float-on/float-off technology and a reconfigurable mission deck to maximize capability. Additionally, the ships’ size allows for 25,000 square feet of vehicle and equipment stowage space and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel storage.

USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), the first Expeditionary Sea Base delivered, along with follow ships Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and Miguel Keith (ESB 5), are being optimized to support a variety of maritime based missions, including Special Operations Forces (SOF) and Airborne Mine Counter Measures (AMCM). The ESBs, which include a four spot flight deck, mission deck and hangar, are designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support and command and control assets.

Montford Point (T-ESD 1), John Glenn (T-ESD 2) and Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB 4) have all delivered to the U.S. Navy and are operated by Military Sealift Command. In August 2017, upon arrival in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, ESB 3 was re-designated from USNS and commissioned as a USS. As a commissioned Navy ship, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) is commanded by a Navy O-6 with a permanently embarked military crew. This re-designation provides combatant commanders greater operational flexibility as to how the platform is employed in accordance with the laws of armed conflict.

The Navy worked in close partnership with NASSCO to identify cost savings early in the ESD design process while pursuing a concurrent design and production engineering approach. Following the successful production readiness review (an evaluation of the ship’s design maturity, availability of materials and the shipbuilder’s ability to successfully start construction) the Secretary of the Navy certified the design and informed Congress that the design of ESD was more than 85 percent complete and ready to proceed with fabrication.

The Navy awarded NASSCO a fixed-price incentive fee type contract for the detail design and construction of T-ESD 1 and T-ESD 2 in May 2011. A detail design and construction contract was awarded to NASSCO for T-ESD 3 in February 2012. The ship configuration was subsequently changed to ESB 3 mid-construction via an engineering change proposal in March 2014 after receiving JROC approval. A detail design and construction contract for ESB 4 was awarded on Dec. 19, 2014 and the construction contract for ESB 5 was awarded December 2016. T-ESD 1, T-ESD 2, ESB 3, and T-ESB 4 have delivered; ESB 5 is under construction.

Point Of Contact
Office of Corporate Communication (SEA 00D)
Naval Sea Systems Command
Washington, D.C. 20376

General Characteristics, Montford Point Class, Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)
Builder: NASSCO
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
Range: 9,500 nautical miles
Crew: 34 Military Sealift Command personnel

USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) - Delivered
USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2) - Delivered

General Characteristics, Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB)
Builder: NASSCO
Propulsion: Commercial Diesel Electric Propulsion
Length: 239.3 Meters (785 feet)
Beam: 50 Meters (164 feet)
Displacement: 90,000 tons (fully loaded)
Draft: 10.5 Meters (fully loaded); 12 Meters (load line)
Speed: 15 knots
Range: 9,500 nautical miles
Crew: 34 Military Sealift Command personnel
USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), Norfolk, Virginia
Miguel Keith (ESB 5) - under construction
USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB 4), Norfolk, Virginia

Last Update: 28 January 2019

I don’t have the bandwidth to play it…does it ballast down enough to do LCAC operations or not?

Here is a video about transfer of vehicles and boarding of LCAC on one of the earlier ships:

Those high Fore- and Stern-castles are obviously surplus to requirements for their present tasks, since they only need to submerge one side of the deck a foot or so.

But they probably have a model of it in some bureaucrat’s office.

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Could these fenders be intended for this type of ships?:

From USNI news:

The first two ships of the class, Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESDs), can ballast down and submerge the empty middle of the hull, allowing surface connectors such as the landing craft air cushion (LCAC) to come aboard and bring goods from larger supply ships at sea onto the shore or to amphibious ships. The remaining ships in the class, the ESBs, do not ballast down but rather have a large mission bay where unmanned surface and undersea vehicles can be launched into the water, and a flight deck for helicopters, tiltrotor aircraft and drones.

That is how the Ferncarrier/American Comorent and abt a dozen other HLVs were converted, only that they started with existing tankers, not just design drawings.

Since they don’t need all that ballast capacity to just dip one side a little, what is the rest of the below deck space used for, if anything??

You don’t have the need to know. :slightly_smiling_face:

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This is a marvelous war ship. It can carry 3 LCACs on the main deck below the upper, open deck and cargo/helicopters on the upper, open deck…
To load the LCACs you have to submerge the ship, so the main deck is below water. For this plenty ballast is needed.
To load/off load anything on the upper, open deck you have to go to a port with a special ramp on shore or use ship to ship transfer with a special ship. Then the sloping ramp on the upper, open deck is lifted up to connect with the shore ramp/special ship and voilà you can drive on and off the upper, open deck. Fantastic. This is 1960’s US roro concept.
When the USSR collapsed 1991 I had the opportunity to inspect USSR roro war ships that could carry plenty armored tanks/vehicles on two/three decks. The external ramp was fitted on the ship and could drop down on shore or a jetty. There were internal, fixed ramps. Small beam LCACs could also be carried. Reason for my visit was to see, if the ship could be be used for normal trading. Answer was no. It was designed for a USSR attack on W. Europe with NATO sleeping at the switches.

Your statement indicates you have not read the links or information posted above, or you are confused about the two types of ships we are discussing. The black hulled ships are the the ESD, they submerge just enough to allow the LCAC to berth and load cargo and fuel. The whole idea of the MLP/ESD ship is to be able to act as a Mobile Landing Platform(at sea) essentially a floating staging area for The USMC to stage a amphibious assault on a beach WITHOUT a developed port. They were never intended to be used as a cargo vessel, other thank bulk liquids. They are just one element of the USMC Maritime Preposition Force that can put Marines and their equipment ashore in various ways. These ships are Government owned and contract operated by US Shipping Companies and crewed by US mariners from various unions.

The grey hull ships are ESD’s, Government owned, and operated by Military Sealift Command. They do not submerge. The mission of these ships is completely different from the black hull ships. They are NOT a cargo vessel. They have a specific mission and it does not involve ro-ro, lo-lo LCAC or ANY OTHER CARGO to be loaded or discharged in a port. The flight deck is a flight deck, not a cargo deck.


OK, the grey hull ship with a white 5 on the bow is an ESD owned by MSC that does not submerge!?!? It has only a big flight deck for helicopters to land on aft of a secret deck house up front. Brilliant. The specific mission of the ship is secret for national security reasons.

The forward house is where the military live. The civilians live in the aft house. What happens in the forward house stays in the forward house.


There are no windows in the forward house where the military live and work. Don’t they need windows? And no extra LSA for the military is seen. Aha, when the ship sinks they evacuate by helicopters! Fantastic!

Black Ops in more ways than one…

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OK, the USNS Miguel Keith is basically a tanker designed with extra high fore castle and poop, so it can submerge (and float on the fore castle and poop) to carry heavy cargo on the main deck. Old stuff. But USN doesn’t need such capabilities. Instead a fixed, extra deck is installed on the main deck between the forecastle and poop for helicopters to land on, we are told… What the space below this extra, top deck and the main deck below is used for is not known. And then there is a new, two levels deck house aft of the fore castle.for ‘military use’ on the new top deck. For ‘Black Ops’! LOL! Give me a break! The whole ship is nonsense! No use!

No. The Miguel Keith does not submerge.

We are told? How about looking up the Keith’s sister ship, the Puller, and you’ll find pictures of helicopters operating off of that deck.

I guess it’s really too much work for you to use Google? The main deck is for storage of supplies, stores, whatever. There’s a crane on the aft stbd corner of the helo deck for raising stuff up for sling loading ashore. Or they can bring another ship alongside and crane stuff on/off depending on the situation.

Yeah…that’s called a “Hangar.” Helicopter goes in the middle taller part with rotors folded, the outboard rooms are used for supporting helo ops.


Yup, it’s nonsense… just like space exploration…

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Besides the bridge and flight tower there are almost no windows on destroyers, amphibs or carriers.

Liferafts. Warships don’t have lifeboats.


When I was in the JOA the ability to launch and recover boats, conduct helo ops, launch and recover UAV’s, provide medical facilities to SOF, refuel, resupply and act as a staging base was pretty useful for SOCOM. There is other stuff too. If you can remove your political views and personal feelings about the US military and assess the capability of this new vessel you would see it is pretty useful for the Mission it conducts.

I am happy to discuss the merits of these vessels with you, but if you are just going to ignore the information others have posted and ask the same questions over and over again I would rather converse with an Iranian patrol vessel that keeps asking my call sign over and over and over…:slightly_smiling_face:


The USNS Miguel Keith has in fact two lifeboats under davits aft to be used by the civilian, i.e. non military crew of the MSC. It seems that this crew is responsible for navigation of the ship from A to B.
The USNS Miguel Keith carries cargo of a secret nature on the main deck. The cargo is protected from rain by a big helicopter platform above. A little crane is used to move the cargo.
The helicopter platform has also a hangar for the choppers and their pilots.
And that’s it. What a stupid ship!