Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

SEALs get ‘mothership’

Written By: Bob - Jan• 28•12

The USS Ponce (LPD-15), is Austin-class amphibious transport dock that was decommissioned in December and was being prepared for mothballing when they thought up a better use for it.

In response to requests from U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.

It seems a bit odd to be retrofitting an aging vessel like the Ponce when so much money has been spent developing two classes of littoral combat ships (the LCS-4 USS Coronado was launched just this month) for supporting near-shore operations.  Perhaps the “mothership” concept is going after a much longer-term, higher volume station to carry more special operations equipment and berthing that can be had on the smaller LCS designs.


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  1. Cool. I was assigned to the USS Austin (LPD-4), which was the lead ship of the class. The Ponce is a reasonably nice ship for as old as it is.

    It is really big. It was originally designed to have 600 sailors and 800 Marines aboard, but we always ended up with about 400 sailors and about 4-500 Marines aboard when we deployed. We never had issues with not enough water or crap like that.

    The LPD has a huge flight deck for an amphibious ship. With their own ship they probably will have better operational security.

    For something that they effectively picked up out of the discard pile, they should be pretty happy with it.

  2. Vince says:

    The LPD is a better choice for a ‘mother ship’ that allows launching boats and helicopter borne missions. The ship has more room for men, equipment and boats. The LCS, although good in concept, is flawed in design for such missions. A command I worked at on contract investigated getting small boats into and out of the LCS while underway and stationary. It was at best dicey and worst more dangerous than neccessary.

  3. Ron King says:

    Very cool, late last year the Ponce spent a couple of days docked at Port Canaveral, FL where I work for Port Canaveral Police Department. I had the opportunity to tour the ship, meet and talk with the sailors, a few Marines and a couple of SEALs that were on board as well as swap challenge coins with the CO.