USS Ponce (LPD-15) : Afloat Forward Staging Base

"We are moving four more mine sweeps to the theater," [Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month]. "That'll make eight. We are moving airborne mine countermeasure helicopters. That'll take us to eight in theater. And ... those, working with the British mine sweeps there, which we exercise with frequently, sets us up a little bit there."
Each of the ships - the USS Sentry (MCM 3), USS Devastator (MCM 6), USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Warrior (MCM 10) - carries a crew of about 60. All are equipped to detect and neutralize mines.
The Navy this month also sent to the region four additional MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters, which also have the capability to locate and destroy mines.
The Navy will also be sending the USS Ponce (LPD-15) to the region in the next few months to act as a floating staging base. Manned by a military and civilian crew, the vessel will provide refueling, resupply and maintenance operations for minesweepers, aircraft and patrol craft at sea in the region
The retrofit will transform the long-serving amphibious transport dock ship into an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB-I) with a habitability structure to support a combined Navy/civil service mariner crew. Slated for deployment this summer, the modernized Ponce will provide maritime mobility, support and refueling capabilities in the U.S. Central Command Theater, an area that includes the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.
[January 27]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.

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