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.