U.S. Navy Turns Civilian-Operated USNS Lewis B. Puller Into Commissioned Warship

The Military Sealift Command expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) departs Naval Station Norfolk to begin its first operational deployment, July 10, 2017.  U.S. Navy Photo. 

The U.S. Navy will officially redesignate the civilian-manned expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) into a commissioned warship on Thursday as the Navy looks to fill its growing demand for more diverse and capable warships around the globe.

The USNS Lewis B. Puller will officially transition to the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during a commissioning ceremony today at the Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain.

The Navy says the redesignation of the ship will allow the Navy greater operational flexibility and support in order to meet potential threats in the 5th Fleet area of operations.

“The commissioning will give combatant commanders greater operational flexibility on how they employ Lewis B. Puller in accordance with the laws of armed conflict,” the Navy said in a statement.

The future Lewis B. Puller, an afloat forward staging base-variant of the mobile landing platform, was delivered to the Navy in June 2015 and has since been operated by Military Sealift Command, the civilian-manned sealift and ocean transport agency of the U.S. government.

Lewis B. Puller will serve as the first ship built specifically for the purpose of serving as an afloat expeditionary sea base. It will be replacing Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce.

USS Lewis B. Puller will be commanded by Navy Capt. Adan G. Cruz and crewed by Navy Sailors and civilian mariners. The civilian mariners will be led by the ship’s Master, Captain Jonathan Olmsted.

President Trump has called for the expansion of the U.S. Navy’s active fleet to 350 surface ships and submarines from the 275 at the end of FY 2016. However, it is unlikely that Trump will be able to hit his expansion promises based on the administration’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget. 

The 784-foot Lewis B. Puller is designed to support air mine countermeasures and special warfare missions, and is capable of executing additional missions including counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief.