The Navy’s first purpose designed Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) is the USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3). It was delivered to the Navy in Jun 2015 and is being readied for a Mid East deployment late next year. As a reminder, the ship is a Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) with a flight deck added some 40 ft above the main deck (yes, that raises questions about stability). The interesting thing about this ship is that it’s primary mission is mine countermeasures (MCM)(1).
“The baseline requirement, the threshold requirement, is MCM capability.”
Apparently, the ship will conduct MCM primarily through the use of helicopters, specifically the MH-53E. The ship has space for two helo parking spots on the flight deck, two operating spots, and two in the hangar. The article suggests that the Navy is looking at increasing the operational spots by converting the parking spots to operating.
The interesting aspect of this is the focus on helicopter MCM versus the LCS’ emphasis on remote unmanned underwater vehicles. Previously, the Navy MCM focused on two main components: helicopters and in-the-water operations from small MCM vessels like the Avenger class. Now, the Navy seems to be attempting to use the LCS for the in-the-water ops and the AFSB for the helicopter operations.
|Afloat Forward Staging Base|
Of course, the AFSB could also operate in-the-water vehicles although this would, of necessity, place a very large ship very close to the minefield. We’ll have to see how this develops. Again, I get the feeling that the Navy is stumbling its way through mine countermeasures warfare rather than having a very clear plan developed from operational experience and wargaming analysis. For instance, how will an AFSB conduct MCM against a peer in a contested environment? I’d really like to see the Navy game out its MCM efforts, specifically in these scenarios:
- Contested amphibious landings
- Contested restricted passages
- Lightly contested, wide area mine clearance
- High speed movements (for example, a carrier group attempting a high speed transit through potentially mined areas)
Like so many Navy developments, this is a small piece of a much bigger picture and the piece is developed seemingly in an operational vacuum. We’ll have to wait to see how the AFSB integrates into the overall MCM force and operations.
Mobile Base Chesty Puller May Receive SOF Upgrades Before 5th Fleet Deployment”,
Megan Eckstein, November 2, 2015,