The US Navy has modified its requirement for three Mobile Landing Platforms by opting to complete the third ship on order as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). The switch in primary role from a pure semi-submersible heavy-lift ship into a more flexible platform designed to facilitate airborne mine countermeasures and support special operations will cost an extra US$129 million. The design changes will see the addition of a large flight deck and accommodation for 250 personnel.
When ‘forward deployed’, the AFSB will provide a floating base for MH-53 Sea Dragon minesweeping helicopters and Avenger class minesweepers to be refuelled, repaired, and rested during mine countermeasure operations. The ship, to be named USNS Lewis B. Puller after the US Marine Corps’ most decorated marine, was laid downat NASSCO’s San Diego shipyard in November 2013. Delivery is scheduledfor the second quarter of 2015. An option for a second AFSB is likely to be taken.