BackgroundBoth Lewis B. Puller and its unnamed sister ship (MLP-4) will differ significantly from the U.S. Navy's first two Mobile Landing Platform support vessels, the Montford Pointtand John Glenn. These two ships 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.
The Lewis B. Puller and MLP-4 will serve as afloat forward staging bases (AFSB) to support special forces missions, counter-piracy/smuggling operations, maritime security operations, and mine clearance, as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. AFSB vessels are designed to support low-intensity missions, allowing more expensive, high-value amphibious warfare ships and surface combatant warships to be re-tasked for more demanding operational missions for the U.S. Navy. These AFSB variants are slated to operate in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean.
As an MLP, the Lewis B. Puller will be operated by the Military Sealift Command. Consequently, the ship will not be formally commissioned into the U.S. Navy, and consequently, its designation prefix will be "USNS." Most of the civilian mariner positions - both entry-level and licenced - will be filled with members of the Seafarers Internationalnion's Government Service Division and the American Maritime Officers union. When completed in 2015, the USNS Lewis B. Puller is slated to replace the USS Ponceethe U.S. Navy's interim AFSB support ship.