The U.S. Navy is continuing the build-out of two of its classes of support ships launched in the last decade to support naval operations. The San Diego-based shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO is receiving an additional $1.4 billion in U.S. Navy contract modifications for the construction of a sixth Expeditionary Sea Base ship and two additional John Lewis-class fleet oilers. This award comes in addition to $600 million already received to procure long-lead time materials for the same ships.
Construction of the four ships is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2023 and continue into 2027. NASSCO noted that the latest contract modification also provides an option for the Navy to procure an additional oiler, bringing the total potential value of the total contract to $2.7 billion for the four ships.
"NASSCO is committed to working together with the Navy to deliver these much-needed ships to the fleet," said Dave Carver, President of General Dynamics NASSCO. "As partners with the Navy, we remain dedicated to ensuring the success of both of these programs to help enhance and expand the Navy's forward presence and warfighting capabilities while providing sustained growth for our workforce."
The Mobile Landing Platform program began 11 years ago in 2011 when the Navy awarded NASSCO with a contract to design and build the first two ships in the new program. They would go on to become the USNS Montford Point, placed in service in May 2013, and the USNS John Glenn placed in service a year later in 2014. Measuring 784 feet, the 84,000-ton (dead weight) vessels operate with a crew of 33 for the Military Sea Lift Command. The first two ships of the class are currently held as inactive status ready under the Navy’s directive to resume service in five days.
The program evolved, adding USS Lewis B. Puller, USS Hershel "Woody" Williams, and USS Miguel Keith which are currently active. According to the design concept, the ESB ships are designed to be highly flexible platforms to support multiple maritime-based missions, including Air Mine Counter Measures, Special Operations Forces, and limited crisis response. Acting as a mobile sea base, this ship has a 52,000 square-foot flight deck to support MH-53, MH-60, MV-22 tilt-rotor, and H1 aircraft operations.
NASSCO currently has two ships of the class under construction. They have been designated the future USS John L. Canley and the future USS Robert E. Simanek. The latest contract modifications as one more ship to the class.
The second program covered in this contract modification for NASSCO is the next generation of fleet oilers, known as the John Lewis class. The Navy awarded NASSCO with a contract to design and build the first six ships in 2016. The class is just beginning to be commissioned, with the first ship, USNS John Lewis delivered to the Navy in July 2022. The USNS Harvey Milk, USNS Earl Warren, and USNS Robert F. Kennedy are currently under construction.
Designed to transfer fuel to U.S. Navy ships operating at sea, the 742-feet vessels have a full load displacement of 49,850 tons, and the capacity to carry 157,000 barrels of oil. They also carry significant amounts of dry cargo, as well as providing aviation capability while traveling at speeds up to 20 knots.
The new contract modification adds two more ships to the oiler fleet and contemplates a third addition to be confirmed by the Navy in the future.