The U.S. Navy’s future USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) Expeditionary Sea Base ship held a keel laying ceremony Jan. 30, at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard, San Diego.
A keel laying is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. It is the joining together of a ship’s modular components and the authentication or etching of the ship sponsors initials into a ceremonial plate.
“A keel laying is the first major milestone in the construction of a new ship,” said Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic Sealift and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. “The keel is the symbolic backbone of the ship. Over the next several months ESB 5 will begin to take shape and I look forward to seeing its progress as we continue constructing this versatile ship.”
The vessel was named in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Miguel Keith during a ceremony in National Harbor, Maryland, Nov. 4.
The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2019.
The new 784-foot-long vessel will feature a 52,000 square foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces. It is able to accommodate up to 250 personnel.
ESBs are highly flexible, modular platforms that are 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 counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster-relief (HADR) missions, and crisis response operations.
The ESBs include a four spot flight deck and hangar and a versatile mission deck and are designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets. The vessel will be capable of supporting MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters, with an option for future upgrades to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.
The ESBs will operate as the component commander requires providing the U.S. Navy fleet with a critical access infrastructure that supports the flexible deployment of forces and supplies.
The Montford Point class is comprised of five ships across two variants in support of the Maritime Prepositioning Force. USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2) have been delivered and are currently in service. The first of the ESB variant, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), was delivered to the fleet in 2015 as a USNS ship. In August 2017, the ship was commissioned as an USS ship on station in Bahrain. The USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) was christened in October and is expected to deliver to Military Sealift Command (MSC) at the end of February.