The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its third Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship, USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) on Nov. 15.
Delivery marks the official transfer of the ship from the shipbuilder, General Dynamics NASSCO, to the Navy. ESB 5 will be owned and operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). MSC has the responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all US military services as well as for other government agencies.
“The Navy and industry team overcame significant setbacks in the construction of this ship, and I’m extremely proud of the urgency and determination displayed on everyone’s part to deliver a high quality ship that will support our operational requirements in the 7th Fleet area of operation,” said Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic Sealift and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office Ships. “Like the ship’s namesake, those who sail aboard Miguel Keith will embody his dedication to service to our country.”
The vessel is named in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Miguel Keith. She is the first ship to bear the name and was announced by the then U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer during a ceremony in National Harbor, Maryland on Nov. 4, 2017.
As an MSC ship, Miguel Keith will be primarily civilian manned by either civil service mariners or contract crews. It may have Navy or Marine Corps personnel on board to carry out communication and special mission functions, or for force protection.
ESB class ships are highly flexible, modular platforms optimized to support a variety of maritime-based missions including Special Operations Force (SOF) and Airborne Mine Counter Measures (AMCM) support operations in addition to humanitarian support and sustainment of traditional military missions.
Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, the Montford Point-class is comprised of five ships across two variants: expeditionary transfer dock (ESD) and expeditionary sea base (ESB). USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1), USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2), and USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) have been delivered to the fleet.
The 784-foot-long vessels have an aviation hangar and a 52,000 sq. ft. flight deck that includes four operating spots capable of landing MV-22 Osprey and MH-53E Sea Stallion equivalent tiltrotor/rotary-wing aircraft, accommodations, workspaces, and ordnance storage for an embarked force. The platforms will also provide enhanced command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence capabilities to support embarked force mission planning and execution. The reconfigurable mission deck area can store embarked force equipment including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.
The ESB vessels are/will be operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) with predominantly civilian crews, with the exception of USS Lewis B. Puller, which owing to the nature of her operations, was commissioned and now operated directly by the Navy with USN crews. After commissioning on 17 August 2017 in Bahrain, Lewis B. Puller’s prefix changed from USNS to USS and her hull designation changed from T-ESB-3 to ESB-3.