The US Navy's (USN's) second Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), USNS John Glenn (MLP 2), has successfully completed acceptance trials prior to handover next month.
Meanwhile, lead vessel USNS Montford Point (MLP 1) is receiving its Core Capability Set (CCS) in Portland, Oregon prior to beginning operational trials.
Based on the Alaska-class crude oil carrier design, but modified to operate as a float-on/float-off vessel, the MLP has been conceived as a flexible surface-to-surface interface hub enabling the transfer of vehicles and equipment at sea from strategic sealift assets to surface connectors. The MLP's primary design requirement is to be able to transfer personnel and vehicles from large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSRs) to landing craft air cushion (LCAC) vehicles in conditions up to and including Sea State 3.
Acting as a 'pier in the ocean', the MLP will enable access to vehicles on LMSRs when ports are not available or when threats preclude pier-side loading operations, and provides improved at-sea selective offload capability for vehicles and equipment.
The embarked CCS, which is being procured separately from the platforms, provides add-on modules that can support a raised vehicle staging area, a sideport ramp, and up to three LCAC vessel lanes.
The MLP has a maximum speed of 15 kt and range of 9,500 n miles. The ship's size allows for 2,322.58 m 2 of vehicle and equipment stowage space, tankage for 100,000 gallons of potable water, and capacity for 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel.
General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, California was contracted by the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to build three MLPs. The last of this trio, the future USNS Lewis B. Puller (MLP 3), is being built as a modified Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant.
A fourth MLP, also to be built as an AFSB variant, is included in the fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget.
Having completed builder's trials on 13 January, MLP 2 was formally named John Glenn on 1 February. Acceptance trials, conducted off the coast of California, were completed on 7 February. During the trials, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey conducted comprehensive tests to demonstrate and evaluate the performance of the ship's major systems.
Delivery of MLP 2 is planned for March 2014. Once in service, the ship will be owned and operated by Military Sealift Command.
Work is continuing at Vigor Marine, Portland to integrate the CCS on Montford Point . Delivered in May 2013, Montford Point completed final contract trials in Everett, Washington State in mid-September 2013.
In November 2012, NAVSEA awarded Vigor Marine a firm fixed-price contract for CCS design, construction, installation, and systems verification. CCS integration for Montford Point began in late November 2013 and is due to complete in March. MLP 1 will then begin developmental and operational testing. This testing, which is intended to prove interface and transfer functionality, will include bringing an LMSR alongside and transferring vehicles across to LCACs on deck. Work is expected to last through to early 2014.
General Dynamics NASSCO performed the keel laying ceremony for MLP 3 on 5 November 2013. Design changes introduced to support the AFSB tasking will allow for additional missions such as airborne mine countermeasures support (with flight deck operating spots and hangar space for two MH-53 helicopters, plus deck cargo space for four Mk 105 minesweeping sleds) and special operations forces missions (with additional berthing space supporting the embarkation of a 250-strong military detachment).
MLP 3 is scheduled to be delivered in 2015. It is thought likely that the vessel will deploy to the Gulf in the 2016 timeframe to replace the current interim AFSB USS Ponce in theatre.