Mobile Landing Platform [MLP] - Afloat Forward Staging BaseThe MLP Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSB) Variant retains sealift capabilities inherent to the MLP Class through cargo transportation and distribution, but provides enhanced aviation, berthing, small boat handling, and command and control capabilities to meet a broader mission set. The MLP AFSB Variant provides the Combatant Commanders flexibility to respond to immediate threats and host task organized forces, including Airborne Mine Countermeasures and Special Forces to confront irregular challenges and counter-terrorism. This includes enhanced logistics and UNREP capability (receive only), and C4I capability to support future missions.
MLP 3 and 4 will be used as AFSB and will include an accommodation barge (accommodating a maximum of 298 personnel) outfitted with common spaces to support ready room, command, operations, and logistics functions in support of mine warfare, special operations and other expeditionary missions. Other capabilities include two CH-53 operating spots with parking for two additional helicopters, a hangar and ordnance storage; an underway replenishment capability; and deck space for airborne mine countermeasure (AMCM) or Special Operating Force (SOF) equipment. Operating forward as AFSBs, MLP 3 and 4 will take on missions currently tasked to guidedmissile destroyers and amphibious ships, freeing these higher-end ships for deployments elsewhere—including the Asia- Pacific. AFSB capabilities support everything from special operations, counter-piracy/smuggling, maritime security, and mine clearing, to humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Although a port provides the potential for greater logistical capacity, AFSBs can operate globally in international waters providing support when or where needed most.
Navy is proposing to procure a fourth Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) in fiscal year 2014, configured to serve as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). This AFSB will fulfill an urgent combatant commander request for sea-based support for mine warfare, Special Operations Forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and other operations. To speed this capability into the fleet and to ultimately provide for continuous AFSB support anywhere in the world, in 2012 the Navy intended to request congressional approval to convert the fiscal year 2012 MLP into the AFSB configuration, resulting in a final force of two MLPs and two AFSBs. This mix would alleviate the demands on an already stressed surface combatant and amphibious fleet while reducing reliance on shore-based infrastructure.
The fiscal year 2013 budget request included no funds for the installation of an Engineering Change Proposal [ECP] to convert Mobile Landing Platform [MLP] 3 to an AFSB. The Senate Appropriations Committee was informed by the Navy that the installation of this capability requires a total investment of $135,000,000, which the Navy planned to fund by reallocating $38,000,000 that is requested in fiscal year 2013 as Advance Procurement of a second AFSB to the MLP 3 ECP, and by requesting the balance of required funding in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The Committee is concerned by this funding strategy and recommends transferring the $38,000,000, as requested by the Navy, to MLP 3 for the ECP. In addition, the Committee recommended an additional $97,000,000 in fiscal year 2013 only for the MLP 3 ECP to fully fund the conversion of MLP 3 to an AFSB, subject to the Department's approval of validated requirements.
The FY2014 budget request included $134.9 million in the National Defense Sealift Fund (NDSF) for the third mobile landing platform (MLP-3) for which the bulk of the funding was provided in fiscal year 2012. The request also included $524.0 million in Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN), to procure the fourth mobile landing platform (MLP-4). The Navy planned to use NDSF funds to complete MLP-3 as the first afloat forward staging base (AFSB-1) platform and use the SCN funds to buy MLP-4 as the second afloat forward staging base (AFSB-2). As a result of reviewing requirements for the AFSB program, the Navy has decided that some funding in the request needs to be shifted from the NDSF account to the SCN account, that some funds in the NDSF budget request are now not required to execute the AFSB program in either account. Therefore, the Senate Armed Service committee recommended an increase to SCN of $55.3 million and a decrease to the NDSF of $112.2 million.
The Navy awarded the contract for the third MLP in February 2012, and MLP 3 is scheduled to begin construction in FY 2013. MLP 3 was planned to replace AFSB - I, USS Ponce. General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, Calif., was awarded an $11,200,000 modification on a not-to-exceed basis to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2229) on June 24, 2013 to accomplish the detail design of Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) modifications for the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) program to support the construction of MLP 3 and MLP 4 which will be AFSB variants. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by November 2013. Fiscal 2012 National Defense Sealift funds in the amount of $5,600,000 will be obligated at the time of award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C., is the contracting activity.
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