Home' Work Boat World : Work Boat World Feb 2017 Contents The sustaining of distant US Navy expeditionary operations is
an expensive and logistically challenging exercise, typically
involving multiple supply runs by a range of vessels, and
politically sensitive reliance on foreign bases.
In order to ameliorate these difficulties, Washington is
introducing two new types of support ship, which are effectively
floating bases for maritime expeditionary warfare. Both types are
based on the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding
Company's (NASSCO) Alaska-class oil tanker, and are operated
primarily by personnel of the US Navy's civilian-manned Military
Sealift Command support fleet, with embarked contingents of
naval staff to carry out specialist duties.
These 60,000-tonne, 239-metre vessels feature diesel electric
propulsion enabling a speed of 15 knots, and have a range of 9,500
One version, the Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD), features a
large float-on float-off deck, and is designed to support large scale
amphibious operations. The ESD ships can be fitted with modules
to support a vehicle staging area, and are equipped with vehicle
transfer ramp, and large mooring fenders.
The second variant, the Expeditionary Mobile Base (ESB), is
optimised for the facilitation of lower intensity operations, such as
anti-piracy, mine hunting and special forces operations, in the Asia
Pacific and Middle East theatres. The ESB features a long fight deck,
a helicopter hangar, and replenishment-at-sea equipment, military
personnel accommodation, small craft launch and recovery
capabilities, an intelligence centre, and command, control,
communication, and computer equipment across multiple
networks and architectures.
The ESD can carry and deploy three large assault hovercraft,
while the ESB can operate CH-53 and other helicopter types, as
well as unmanned maritime and airborne vehicles. Studies into the
feasibility of operating V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor troop carrying aircraft
have been carried out.
Neither the ESD nor the ESB ships are intended to go in harm's
way. Rather, they will supply long term support for operations,
while positioned a safe distance from hostile forces.
NASSCO has so far delivered three ships, namely Montford
Point (ESD 1), John Glenn (ESD 2) and Lewis B. Puller (ESB 1) to
the US Navy, and the company was recently awarded a contract to
construct a second ESB.
Chinese submarines for Bangladesh Navy
The Bangladesh Navy (BN) has expanded greatly over the past
decade, but has so far lagged behind many of Asia's other
burgeoning naval fleets in creating a submarine arm. This was
corrected in November 2016 when the BN took delivery of two
second-hand type 035G Ming-class diesel-electric attack
submarines from China, under a US$203 million contract.
The subs, now named Nabajatra and Joyjatra were handed over
at the Liao Nan Shipyard in Dalian, and will remain in Chinese
waters for BN crew training for some months, before transferring
to Bangladesh's new submarine base near Katubdia
The 76-metre, 2,100-tonne Ming-class was developed in China
from the Soviet-designed "Romeo" vessel, which previously served
in large numbers with the PLA Navy. The Ming-class was in
production from 1974 to 2003, with a total of 22 vessels being
constructed. The 18-knot craft is a substantial improvement on the
original design. The 035G variant's main armament of Yu-3
torpedoes, integrated with French-designed sonar equipment, gives
it anti-submarine, as well as anti-surface warship capability.
The submarines are probably also capable of firing anti-shipping
The two subs for BN have been out of front line service for some
years, but received major refurbishment before being handed over
to the Bangladeshis.
Dhaka's stance so far has been that it has no aggressive intent,
and that the boats have been acquired for training purposes. They
add balance to the BN fleet, and also ensure that Bangladesh does
not fall behind in Asia's naval arms race. The subs do have,
notwithstanding Bangladesh's declared position on their
operation, significant surveillance and combat capabilities, which
are relevant to Bangladesh's current maritime security needs.
Although the maritime sovereignty dispute between Bangladesh
and Myanmar was settled by the International Tribunal on The
Law of the Sea in Dhaka's favour in 2012, bilateral tensions
remain, as evidenced by periodic incidents involving fishing boats
of the two nations.
Maritime sovereignty is of crucial importance to Bangladesh, as
rising sea levels, and an expanding population, are obliging its
government to apply great focus to exploitation and protection of
the nation's offshore energy and fishing resources.
China is already a major source of surface warships for the BN,
and the purchase of Chinese submarines is being seen by many as
placing further emphasis upon Bangladesh-China strategic and
economic links. The Bay of Bengal and its environs are a
transit area for much of China's imported gas and crude oil,
and Bangladesh now hosts many Chinese low-cost
The commissioning of Bangladesh's first underwater combat
assets adds a new and radical dimension to the continuing BN
expansion programme, This programme includes the acquisition of
indigenous, and Chinese-built, corvettes and large patrol craft.
According to recent reports, also in the pipeline for the BN are
the British Royal Navy's three Batch 1 River-class offshore patrol
vessels, which are soon to be replaced in RN service by new
versions of the class, and a pair of Leonardo AW 159 Wildc at
shipboard anti-submarine helicopters.
Floating bases to support US
With TREVOR HOLLINGSBEE
Photo: US Navy
USNS Lewis B. Puller
WORK BOAT WORLD February 2017 9
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