General Dynamics NASSCO started construction on the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), the fifth ship of the Navy’s reclassified Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) program. Dennis DuBard, a long-time NASSCO employee and the Start of Construction honoree, initiated the first cut of steel that will be used to construct the vessel. The future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6), the fourth ship in the ESB program, is scheduled to be launched in the summer of 2022. The first three ships in the ESB program for the U.S. Navy – USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), and USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) – have been delivered.
“Today, we start construction of the ship that honors the life and service of the ship’s namesake, Marine Corps Private First Class Robert E. Simanek,” said Dave Carver, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. “This ship represents the thousands of men and women who will spend roughly 2 million hours building this ship.”
An Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD), formerly the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), is designed to be a semi-submersible, flexible, modular platform providing the US Navy with the capability to perform large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore. These ships significantly reduce the dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of port availability. The class also houses a sub-class variant called the Expeditionary Mobile Base (ESB), formerly the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). Effective 4 September 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus officially announced the creation of a new ship designation, “E” for expeditionary support.
Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) will be called Expeditionary Fast Transport, or EPF; the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) will be called Expeditionary Transfer Dock, or ESD; and the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant of the MLP will be called Expeditionary Mobile Base, or ESB. The new designation was pursuant to a memorandum sent to Secretary Mabus from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert dated 31 August 2015. The Navy plans to procure six Expeditionary Mobile Bases (ESBs) in total, with a fourth (ESB-6) ordered in FY2018, a fifth (ESB-7) ordered in FY2019, and the sixth and final ship (ESB-8) with an order date yet to be determined.
The Expeditionary Transfer Dock concept is 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. Troops, equipment, and cargo would be transferred to the ESD by large-draft ships, from where they can be moved ashore by shallower-draft vessels, landing craft like the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), or helicopters. For transferring vehicles from the larger ships to the ESD, 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.