Mobile Landing Platform

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USNS John Glenn (T-MLP-2) underway in January 2014.jpg
USNS John Glenn (T-MLP-2) sea trials in 2014
Class overview
Builders:General Dynamics
Operators:United States Navy
Building:3
Planned:5
General characteristics
Tonnage:>60,000 metric dwt[1]
Length:785 ft (239 m)[1]
Beam:164 ft (50 m)[1]
Draft:39.37 ft (12.00 m)[1]
Propulsion:

4xMAN/B&W medium speed diesels
24MW diesel electric plant, twin screws

2MW azimuth bow thruster[1]
Speed:>15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)[1]
Range:9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 15 knots[1]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
3 LCAC
Aviation facilities:AFSB variant:Hangar for 2x MH-53 and large flight deck
 
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USNS John Glenn (T-MLP-2) underway in January 2014.jpg
USNS John Glenn (T-MLP-2) sea trials in 2014
Class overview
Builders:General Dynamics
Operators:United States Navy
Building:3
Planned:5
General characteristics
Tonnage:>60,000 metric dwt[1]
Length:785 ft (239 m)[1]
Beam:164 ft (50 m)[1]
Draft:39.37 ft (12.00 m)[1]
Propulsion:

4xMAN/B&W medium speed diesels
24MW diesel electric plant, twin screws

2MW azimuth bow thruster[1]
Speed:>15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)[1]
Range:9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi) at 15 knots[1]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
3 LCAC
Aviation facilities:AFSB variant:Hangar for 2x MH-53 and large flight deck
A computer-generated image depicting the Mobile Landing Platform design
CGI of the MLP-AFSB variant
USNS Watkins (back) and heavy lift ship MV Mighty Servant 1 moored side-by-side off San Diego during a demonstration of the Mobile Landing Platform concept in 2005.
USNS John Glenn (T-MLP-2) naming, Feb 2014
Stern view of John Glenn

The Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) is a type of amphibious assault ship being constructed for the United States Navy, with the first ship due to enter service in 2013. MLP ships are to serve as floating bases for amphibious operations, and operate as a transfer point between large ships and small landing craft. Proof-of-concept testing began in 2005, with heavy lift ships serving as substitutes for the MLPs. General Dynamics' National Steel and Shipbuilding Company was awarded a contract to design and build the first ship in late 2010, with construction beginning in July 2011. The United States Navy initially plans to acquire three vessels (with a possible fourth proposed in 2012, and fifth in 2014), which will be designated the Montford Point class.

Design[edit]

The Mobile Landing Platform concept calls for a large auxiliary support ship to facilitate the 'seabasing' of an amphibious landing force by acting as a floating base or transfer station that can be prepositioned off the target area.[2][3] Troops, equipment, and cargo would be transferred to the MLP by large-draft ships, from where it can be moved ashore by shallower-draft vessels, landing craft like the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), or helicopters.[2][3] In order to transfer vehicles from the larger ships to the MLP, the vessels were originally to be fitted with a Vehicle Transfer System; a ramp connecting the two ships alongside, and able to compensate for the movements of both vessels while underway.[4]

A preliminary design by General Dynamics envisioned a ship that carried six LCACs, with the ability to turn around (dock, unload or load, then launch) two landing craft simultaneously from the stern.[4] The MLPs were to host a brigade-size force, sail at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), and have a maximum range of 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi).[4] Each ship was to cost US$1.5 billion to build.[4] However, cutbacks to defense spending planned for the fiscal year 2011 budget forced the downscaling of the design in mid-2009.[4]

General Dynamics identified the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker (built by the subsidiary National Steel and Shipbuilding Company) as a suitable basis for an "MLP 'Lite'", with the design modified into a float-on/float-off vessel that could be built for US$500 million per ship.[4] As part of the cost trade-off, the Vehicle Transfer System was scrapped in favor of skin-to-skin mooring of a host ship alongside the MLP, and the LCAC complement was reduced to three.[4] The new design is 785 feet (239 m) long, with a beam of 164 feet (50 m), a top speed of over 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), and a maximum range of 9,500 nautical miles (17,600 km; 10,900 mi).[1] Converteam supply an integrated power system and vessel automation system for the MLP.[5]

USS Ponce[edit]

In March 2013 CNO Jonathan Greenert showed Powerpoint of the MLP-Afloat Forward Staging Base (MLP-AFSB), a proposed variant of the MLP with increased accommodation, a hangar and large flightdeck on piers above the semi-submersible deck,[6][7] This was first proposed in January 2012, around the time of the sudden announcement that the USS Ponce would be converted as an interim AFSB.[8] The MLP-AFSB could be used to support special forces and intelligence gathering[9] as a base for helicopters, MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors, and even the F-35B stealth fighter,[6] but the main role of the Ponce will be operating minesweeping MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters.[8] As of March 2013 "a number of variations" of the MLP were being considered;[7] the AFSB can fulfil many of the roles of a $2.5bn "big deck" amphibious ship at a quarter of the price.[6]

Afloat Forward Staging Base MLP variants[edit]

Unlike the first two Mobile Landing Platforms, MLP-3, MLP-4, and MLP-5 will serve as afloat forward staging bases (AFSB) vessels to support special forces missions, counter-piracy/smuggling operations, maritime security operations, and mine clearance, as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.[10]

AFSB vessels are designed to support low-intensity missions, allowing 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.[11] These AFSB variants are slated to operate in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean.[12]

Like the first two Mobile Landing Platforms, the overall design of the MLP-3 and MLP-4 is based on the hull of the civilian Alaska-class oil tanker.[12] Both AFSB variants 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.[11] Their 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.[11]

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).[11][13] The keel-laying ceremony for MKP-3 took place at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, California, on 5 November 2013.[14][15]

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 (pictured) will be evaluated for potential operations on board the Afloat Forward Staging Base MLP variant. 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 exhaust heat from F-35B damaging the flight decks of U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships.[16]

Concept testing[edit]

In September 2005, the United States Navy approved trials of the MLP concept, to test the feasibility of seabasing for an amphibious operation.[3] The heavy lift ship MV Mighty Servant 1 served as the substitute for the MLP, while the Roll-on/roll-off vessel USNS Watkins played the role of a planned type of transport ship for the United States Maritime Prepositioning Force.[3] The first part of the trial consisted of the two ships transferring cargo between themselves while anchored in Puget Sound.[3] After successfully completing this, the vessels sailed to San Diego, where cargo was transferred from Watkins to Mighty Servant 1, then taken ashore by LCACs; slightly submerging the deck of the heavy lift ship allowed the hovercraft to "'fly' aboard".[3]

A second series of tests was conducted off Norfolk, Virginia in September and October 2006, with USNS Red Cloud and MV Mighty Servant 3.[2] This time, the ships were moored together while underway, during which vehicles drove from Red Cloud onto Mighty Servant 3, then embarked aboard LCACs.[2] In February 2010, Mighty Servant 3 joined USNS Soderman for further trials in the Gulf of Mexico.[2] During these, personnel and a wide range of vehicles, from Humvees to M1 Abrams tanks, were transferred to, then launched from Mighty Servant 3, in conditions up to Sea State 4.[2]

Construction[edit]

In August 2010, the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego was awarded a US$115 million contract to design the Mobile Landing Platform, and build the first ship.[2][17] Construction on the first vessel began in July 2011.[18]

In January 2011, the names for the three ships were announced:[19]

Orders for the second and third vessels are expected to be made in the 2013 and 2015 fiscal years.[4] The keel for the first Montford Point-class Mobile Landing Platform was laid on 19 January 2012.[20] Construction of John Glenn begin on 17 April 2012,[21] by which time the Montford Point was 48% complete.[21] The Montford Point was christened in San Diego on March 2, 2013. The first ship is to be operational by 2015, with the third in service by 2018.[4] The Montford Point completed final contract trials on 13 September 2013; the John Glenn was floated off on 15 September and construction began on the Lewis B. Puller on 19 September 2013.[22]

In March 2012 the USN requested a fourth ship in the FY14 budget of the National Defense Sealift Fund, and proposed that both MLP-3 and MLP-4 would be MLP-AFSB variants.[9] Congress rejected both requests on the grounds that the Ponce could do the job and AFSB's should in any case be funded out of the main Navy account.[23] As of March 2013 the Chief of Naval Operations is still planning to buy two MLP and two MLP-AFSB despite the uncertainty caused by the sequester,[6] in fact the late-2012 "Vision for the 2025 Surface Fleet" by the head of Naval Surface Forces envisages buying more MLP variants as a cheap alternative to traditional amphibious ships.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "USNS John Glenn (MLP 2) Christening Ceremony" (pdf). General Dynamics NASSCO. 1 February 2014. pp. 14–16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The US Navy’s Mobile Landing Platform Ships". Defense Industry Daily. Watershed Publishing. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mobile Landing Platform [MLP]". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Scott, Richard (30 September 2010). "Floating world: US Navy eyes Mobile Landing Platform as sea base pontoon". International Defence Review (Jane's Information Group). 
  5. ^ http://www.converteam.com/majic/pageServer/12040001bb0000/en/20110803-US-Navy-Mobile-Landing-Platform.html
  6. ^ a b c d Freedberg Jr., Sydney J. (12 March 2013). "CNO Adm. Greenert Emphasizes Navy's Bright Future, Not Budget Crisis". AOL Defense.  Has image of the MLP-AFSB
  7. ^ a b c Cavas, Christopher P. (17 March 2013). "U.S. Navy Weighs Halving LCS Order". Defense News. 
  8. ^ a b Cavas, Christopher P. (27 January 2012). "New Floating Base Ships Coming for U.S. Navy". Defense News. 
  9. ^ a b "Senate Hearings 112 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013". U.S. Government Printing Office. 7 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Document: Navy’s 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan for Fiscal Year 2015". news.usni.org (US Navy). 7 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d "U.S. Navy Program Guide 2013". United States Navy. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. See pages 101–102 
  12. ^ a b "Updated: Keel Laid for First Dedicated Afloat Forward Staging Base". USNI News Blog. United States Naval Institute. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  13. ^ "Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) – Afloat Forward Staging Base". Military. GlobalSecurity.org. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  14. ^ "Keel Laid for Future USNS Lewis B. Puller". NNS131105-20. Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  15. ^ "NASSCO Lays Keel of Third U.S. Navy Platform Ship". MarineLink.com. Maritime Activity Reports, Inc. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Carlo Muñoz (16 January 2014). "SNA 2014: Navy Eyes Osprey Flights for AFSB Fleet". United States Naval Institute. Retrieved 5 16 January 2014.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  17. ^ Robbins, Gary (14 August 2010). "General Dynamics gets $115M for 'pier at sea'". San Diego Union-Tribune. The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  18. ^ "Construction Begins on First Mobile Landing Platform". United States Navy. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  19. ^ Military Sealift Command Press Release: Navy Names First Three Mobile Landing Platform Ships
  20. ^ "Keel Laid for Navy’s First Mobile Landing Platform". Defense talk. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  21. ^ a b http://flotprom.ru/news/?ELEMENT_ID=109824
  22. ^ Cavas, Christopher (3 October 2013). "New Ship News – Sub launched, Carrier prepped, LCS delivered". Defense News. 
  23. ^ "Committee Reports 112th Congress (2011-2012) House Report 112-493 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2013". Library of Congress. 

External links[edit]