SAN DIEGO: Saturday saw the formal christening of the USNS Montford Point, the first of a new class of Navy vessel, the Mobile Landing Platform, meant to revolutionize the conduct of amphibious operations. By serving as a kind of floating pier, the MLP allows an amphibious force to offload heavy combat vehicles and bulk supplies at sea, without having to capture a major seaport — which can be a bloody chokepoint in seaborne operations.

An unarmed vessel operated by civilians rather than by uniformed Navy personnel — hence the designation USNS, United States Naval Ship, rather than USS — and derived from a commercial oil tanker design, the Montford Point boasts a unique and visually striking “cut away” design: a high forecastle and aftercastle at either end with a much lower main deck between them. The ship is in fact semi-submersible, designed to take on ballast until the main deck is beneath the waves. That allows landing craft to sail right aboard for loading and unloading, principally the Navy LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) hovercraft and its successor the SSC (Ship-to-Shore Connector). In conjunction with a kind of deployable build-a-port kit called Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS), the Mobile Landing Platform is intended to enable a new kind of amphibious warfare that can put troops ashore — and sustain them — without depending on a port.

Built by General Dynamics’ NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, the Montford Point is the first of three planned Mobile Landing Platforms. Frequent Breaking Defense contributor Robbin Laird, co-founder of the website Second Line of Defense, was present at the christening and will be writing an in-depth analysis of why the MLP matters militarily. We use many of Mr. Laird’s photos below, interspersed with long-distance and helicopter shots taken by General Dynamics.


  • PolicyWonk

    Lamentably, this ship and her sisters are only intended to operate in weather up to sea state 3, which from what I recall is about 15kts of breeze. If it’s going to be used for an invasion, the weather will need to coordinate with our plans. I read on one of the other defense related sites these ships will likely be more useful for humanitarian than military applications.

    There is no provision as of yet for a helipad, or the ability to directly land heavy equipment on the deck (although, apparently that can be retrofitted).

    Hopefully, these ships will provide useful service.

    • Zbigniew M. Mazurak

      Why not build more San Antonio class LPDs instead? BTW, invasions *have to be planned in accordance with weather*. General Eisenhower could not begin Operation Overlord on June 5th, because on that day, there was a heavy storm over the English Channel that rendered the channel impassable for water craft. His meteorological service, however, informed him that there would be clement weather on June 6th, so he ordered the operation to begin on that day. That’s why June 6th, and not some other day, was D-Day.

      • PolicyWonk

        Indeed you are correct – invasions must be planned around when the weather is likely to be favorable. But as someone who has spent a fair amount of time at sea, I can tell you the weather has a way of being less than cooperative.

        Hence – I think it might’ve served better to plan for sea state 4 (as opposed to 3 as it is currently).

        The San Antonio’s serve a different purpose, but I see your point. They are also a lot more expensive (San Antonio’s are not built to commercial standards).

        Personally, I’d like to see two more full ARG’s if it were up to me.

      • leesea

        for starters, LPD-17s cost OVER a million each and do NOT have any capability to inter-operate with MPS or other sealift ships

    • leesea

      the MLP Core Capability Set is a separate contract to be added later.
      Why does this ship need a helo pad? Will not the CH-53Ks fly directly off the big expensive amphibs?

      Its the other rolling stock needed to sustain an amphibious operation which this ship is supposed to facilitate, but may well fail to do in any substantive amount

  • Joey