Navy’s Giant Sea Base in Middle East
According to The Drive, the U.S. Navy’s new giant sea base the USS Lewis B. Puller is now on duty in the Middle East and the service is already experimenting with what the ship might be able to do. Currently, this includes acting a launch pad for boarding parties and special operators and serving as a platform for counter-mine operations. The ship might even eventually be able to take on the role of floating medical facility, which could be particularly important if one or both of the service’s existing hospital ships end up in mothballs.
Puller first arrived in the region in August 2017, at which point the U.S. Fifth Fleet took control of the ship from the Navy’s hybrid military-civilian Military Sealift Command (MSC). Officially termed an Expeditionary Sea Base or ESB, the vessel took over for the USS Ponce, an aging amphibious ship the service converted to serve as an interim float staging platform. In September 2017, Ponce returned to Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia for decommissioning and eventual scrapping.
“This ship is a blank canvas,” U.S. Navy Captain Joseph Femino said in a March 2018 interview with USNI News. “Whoever wants to come assess what they want, develop what they want, we’ll work to try and get that.”
There’s a lot of space to work with since the ship is a whopping 764-feet long, 164-feet wide, and displaces a massive 78,000 tons. Derived from the Alaska-class oil tanker, it features a large open flight deck situated with four operating spots, two for take off and landing and two parking, that can support V-22 Osprey tiltrotors, various types of helicopters including the MH-53 Sea Dragon, and small tactical and helicopter-like drones, such as the ScanEagle and MQ-8 Fire Scout respectively.
Below that there is a large open space that can accommodate small watercraft, cargo, containerized mission spaces, and more. Underneath, in the hull, there are massive ballast tanks that, at present, are just empty space.