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.