USNS MILLINOCKET, LONG BEACH AND CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines with Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, participated in the testing of an emerging seabasing capability, using the Joint High Speed Vessel and the Mobile Landing Platform, aboard the US Naval Ship Millinocket off the coast of Long Beach, Calif., June 24 and off of Landing Craft Air Cushions, July 9, 2014.
The Mobile Landing Platform is a new type of Maritime Pre-Positioning Ship that facilitates the transfer of military equipment and personnel from large ships to ship-to-shore connectors. Seabasing is a naval capability that provides commanders the ability to organize and employ forces and equipment from ship-to-shore, entirely at sea. The MLP used in this testing was the USNS Montford Point.
The concept of seabasing has been around for more than 30 years but the testing of MLP specific capabilities dates back to 2003 and is slated to be used during Rim of the Pacific 2014, the world's largest multi-national maritime exercise.
“The current version of the MLP was developed primarily to provide a surface interface between other Maritime Prepositioned Forces-Future squadron ships, ship-to-shore connectors and the Sea Base,” said Maj. Chad Grimmett, United States Marine Corps Liason to Program Executive Office Ships, Pacific and Theater Sealift PMS 385 and 470. “USNS Montford Point, employed during RIMPAC 14, began construction in 2011, was delivered to MSC in 2013 and is expected to be operational in early 2015.”
During last month’s MLP exercise, the majority of Marines who participated in the testing were motor transport operators, tasked with driving Humvees and 7-tons from the USNS Millinocket to the USNS Montford Point, and embarkation specialists who had the vital responsibility of guiding the drivers across the bridge.
More recently, the embarkation specialists guided amphibious assault vehicles off of Landing Craft Air Cushion onto the ship.
“This [capability] allows us to bypass either neutral or unfriendly ports, so we don’t need a deep-water port to come into an area where a crisis or conflict is erupting,” said Capt. Nicholas Borns, operations officer, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “This allows us to do what the nation sends us to without [taking several] extra steps of getting to a port and securing it.”
Practicing both techniques allowed the Marines to explore the MLP’s full range of capabilities.
“By doing this, more personnel were involved at all levels which helped to socialize this concept and test the vessel's capabilities,” said Borns. “Last month, Headquarters Regiment and 1st MLG tested the transfer of equipment between vessels, showing that the raised vehicle deck can accept vehicles from the JHSV's stern ramp. It did not test moving equipment down to the LCAC Mission Bays, which were used extensively this month to embark and launch AAVs.”
At first, the Marines were unsure of the transit of some of the heavy vehicles, such as the 7-tons, and hesitated before turning at the end of the bridge onto the MLP. However, it was easier than they anticipated, according to Lance Cpl. Josef Conerty, a motor transport operator, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and a native of Freehold, N.J.
“Just thinking about it, driving from one ship to another over the open ocean, it is definitely a unique, fun experience,” said Conerty who drove the first 7-ton across the bridge.
At the end of the exercise, the seabasing concept was validated, something Borns has waited almost 10 years to see.
“It allowed operational forces to move personnel and equipment on and off the vessel using LCACs and Division's equipment,” said Borns. “Receiving equipment, staging, embarkation, and launching AAVs are all within the testing requirement for the vessel.”
The MLP can hold enough JP-5 fuel to sustain Landing Craft Air Cushion operations over many days, an important characteristic when it comes to fulfilling maritime mission requirements.
“During a crisis response, local infrastructure may be unable to support the mooring of large Maritime Pre-Positioning Force ships,” said Grimmett. “Additionally, the instability triggered by the crisis might present a security concern that could expose personnel and equipment to potential shore-based threats. MLP can provide a ‘pier in the ocean,’ from which MPF shipping can safely and efficiently offload mission essential equipment, greatly increasing the Marine Corps’ responsiveness during crisis response.”
With the success of this testing, the USNS Montford Point will be used for a full-scale test in October. Unlike the recent testing, which validated only the first steps in a reconstitution at sea, the testing in October will cover the complete concept of moving gear from a large ship to the MLP, from the MLP to a small landing craft and then straight to shore.