USS Ponce to Become Spec Ops Mothership

In case you didn’t see this on Friday, the Pentagon is converting the 1970s-vintage amphibious assault ship USS Ponce into a mothership for special ops and countermining missions in the Middle East, the Washington Post is reporting.

The 570-foot long ship’s big flight deck and well deck are well suited to carry the choppers and small boats that SOF troops would use to execute raids from this floating assault base. In fact, a Navy market survey document laying out requirement to develop a floating base that can be used in the Persian Gulf says whatever ship is chosen must be able to carry 370 people, have a 20-person operations center, accomodate “4 MH-53 size helicopters” and a have up to 12 small vessels like riverine patrol boats and 7-meter Zodiac boats lash up to its side at any one time. Click through the jump to read the Navy’s market survey and the requirements for the floating base.

Here’s the Navy’s solicitations for company’s to convert the Ponce into that mothership, and quickly, in order to get the vessel to the seas around the Middle East and you can bet the Horn of Africa too. The Ponce is expected to serve as the SOF and counterming ops mothership until a more permanent floating base can be built, according to the Post.

AFSB Market Survey MM-12-04 Revision 1 Dec 22

  • DJ Elliott

    This is new? We’ve been using gators for this type of thing since WWII…

  • agwnonsense

    isn’t a Ponce a poofter I can see the connection

    • tiger

      It’s a city in Puerto Rico.

  • blight

    The old gators may be turned into special ops boats and UAV launchers in the near future.

    It beats waiting for the Navy to procure a proper boat without hitting overruns. As it is, the Navy has plenty of boats and must dump them or figure out how to integrate them into the new special operations focus.

    • leesea

      cost too damn muich and don’t need a wet well dock (money sink hole)

  • Lance

    Awesome and cost saving Idea got give it to SOCOM and the Navy for a great idea.

  • lalaland

    Brilliant, clearly no-one at DoD has visited the Urban Dictionary recently.

  • crackedlenses

    Finally, some good news. Our incompetent leaders get something right once in a while…..

  • Black Owl

    Two Somali Pirates are talking at night…

    Pirate 1: Hey, let’s go raid that ship!

    Pirate 2: I don’t know, man. What if they have armed men on board?

    Pirate 1: Don’t worry. I’m sure we can take ’em.

  • blight

    Someone in the services explain this tidbit to me:

    Question 5:
    Aircraft Capabilities:a. Flight Deck – Will a helipad satisfy the flight deck requirement?
    Answer 5:
    a. No, a helipad will not satisfy the requirements. Flight deck must be NAVAIR certified.

    What did the Ponces deploy off the flight decks? I thought they just had Sea Knights, or did I miss something?

    These also have well decks, so it’ll meet special forces needs without the need to embark aboard a larger gator (like the America or the San Antonios). However, it would be nice if they could quietly procure or commandeer civilian vessels for this-eg use a RO-RO cargo vessel to offload RHIBs at sea and the like.

  • Just in time for campaign season!

    This is a good move but the timing is suspect especially with the rush put on the order. wouldn’t be surprised to see a bunch of highly publicized SEAL raids against pirates this summer.

    The ship is needed. We used a carrier for a spec ops base going into Afghanistan and a barge the last time the Iranians mined the gulf. SOCOM has been trying to get this concept launched for two decades. Timing is everything.

  • Nicky

    I like the concept of the Mothership for patrol boats and maybe something the US Coast Guard can use and tag along with the US Navy. Provide a base for their 110 patrol boats and even their FRC.

    I think that the US Navy should have used something more younger than the USS Ponce. I know the US Navy still has some Austin class amphibious transport dock that are still good or even the Cleveland class amphibious transport dock that are still left that the US Navy can use as motherships for Spec ops and even for CB-90 craft as well.

    • blight

      Ponce and Trenton are the newest of the Austins. The Clevelands (modified Austin) are still around, and half have been decommisioned already. The Cleves have extra room for a flag bridge and staff, which could be useful for C3 of special operations.

      • FormerDirtDart

        The only Austins still commissioned are the Ponce (just barely) and Denver, every other Austin or derivative, has already been decommissioned, and no doubt rat f–ked for parts.

        • blight

          Hmm. What about the LSD’s?

          • STemplar

            There are some, really boils down to how many conversions do we need. Probably none of the LSDs were due for decommissioning.

          • FormerDirtDart

            All 8 of the Whidbey Island class, 4 of the Harpers Ferry class are still in service, and expected to continue in service through 2038.

            With the USMC making it clear that the amphibious fleet is below required capacity, I can’t see any ships having their mission and uses changed.

            The Denver (Austin/Cleveland) will likely be retired when the Somerset (San Antonio) is completed and joins the fleet.

            And, there are the Nassau (reserve fleet Mar ’11) and Peleliu (active) Tarawa class LHAs. The Peleliu is scheduled for deactivation in 2013 when the America joins the fleet. Though, they are rather large, and will require a larger crew to man, but would still be smaller than the Maesk S-class AFSB concept.

          • STemplar

            The Maersk was just a proposal by them a few years back. I posted the video for reference only. The MLP is being built though and the 4th being converted sounded like pretty firm talk with the third being built like instead of a MLP also sounded pretty firm. The MLP hull isnt as big as an S class, it’s still pretty big though, 765 feet.

    • Jim

      Hey, Nicky. USS Ponce already IS the youngest Austin Class ship! Ponce is the LPD 15 and Cleveland is LPD 7.

    • George

      FYI, the Ponce is the last ship of her class of the Austin class! I should know, as I put her inot commission! ERGO, she is the YOUNGEST ship of that class!

  • FormerDirtDart

    Seems to me to be “Prime Chance” all grown-up and less ghetto rigged.

  • Scott

    The Navy already did essentially the same thing in the 1990s with the USS Inchon. Converted it to a MCM tender and command ship. Engine room fire ended its career over a decade ago, though…..

  • RCDC

    If conflict with Iran happens we probably need 10 if these carrying a lot of speed boats with surface to surface missiles or rockets and anti aircraft gun for self defense if attack by Iranian speed boats.

    • STemplar

      How about a squadron of F-18s instead with cluster munitions instead?

  • RCDC

    If conflict with Iran happens we probably need 10 of these carrying a lot of speed boats with surface to surface missiles or rockets and anti aircraft gun for self defense if attack by Iranian speed boats.

  • leesea

    and still the US Navy has not learned that converting old warships is VERY expensive~

    BTW that Market Survey is OBE and supeceded by this FBO for the Ponce conversion:

    • Didn’t they bring the Mighty Mo out of mothballs for Vietnam ? How about something like the USS Carronade (IFS-1) ?

    • blight

      Warships are inherently expensive. Old and new.

  • RCDC

    I think it will be a good strategy if we use 10 of these ships for fast boat delivery to Kuwait to support the 5th fleet. It wouldn’t be a good idea to display these ships in open waters near Iran, because it can be beyond the reach of their (Iran) cruise missiles which they already tested on their naval sea practices. Our ships could be an easy target by their (Iran) cruise missiles if war erupted.

  • JE McKellar

    The word is ‘tender’, not ‘mothership’, not ‘Afloat Forward Staging Base’. Are we really so illiterate?

    • blight

      Tender isn’t macho. And Afloat Forward Staging Base satsifies the military’s need for jargon and the repurposing of old jargon for new paradigms.

    • buck

      A tender is more of a repair and supply ship, mother ship fits the ponce to a tee, as she can house many smaller fast boats inside. This boat is all about b’n versitile

  • hiwarmgun

    I can see Iran trying to take the ship out with a Silkworm missles or Somalis sneaking close in at night with explosives. I hope they spend a few extra dollars to mount Phalanx or RAM CIWS and mount .50 cal. and 25mm guns to counter nutballs in speedboats.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Its the USS Ponce, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, its already armed you putz.
      Its standard weapons complement is 2x Phalanx CIWS, 8x .50 cal. mounts.

      • leesea

        and it needs more as in SeaRAM and newer versions of Mk 38 and now about a Mk 49 .50 mount?

        • FormerDirtDart

          With only a 60 odd day refurbishment, I think it will be lucky to retain what weapons systems it had to start with

          And, I may have erred on the standard weapons complement, found additional info listing 2x Mk-38s along with previously listed weapons

  • Matt Holzmann

    If they want to park helo’s on the deck it’s okay, but where will the maintenance/support be located? It will have to have some kind of honey badger defensive capability, and it will have to have a very heavy duty A/C system and very large gas/diesel storage tanks for the daughter ships.

    Max speed is @ 20 kts. It’s an interesting idea and if properly implemented could be a better alternative to the LCS for close in operations.

  • LEP1

    I am wondering whether this “tender” or “forward platform” solutions will create better targets for the Iranians in the asymmetric warfare environment of the Persian Gulf. The immovable platforms that were used during the U.S. Navy special forces involvement in the Persian Gulf in 1986-1988 during the Iraq-Iran War had to be guarded themselves by U.S. Navy missile guided destroyers and frigates. The fact that these platforms and attending U.S. Navy warships were not hit by any Iranian SSMs (including the Chinese origin Silkworms) had more to do with Iranian inability to handle and maintain SSMs rather than our electronic warfare ability to decoy them away. Things have changed. Iran possesses more and better SSMs (e.g., copies of the Chinese C802, Kowsar, etc.), and the number of our USN FFGs and DDGs is down. If you have to guard and provide anti-missile defense for a special operations “tender,” then the guarding USN FFGs and DDGs cannot undertake other missions.

    • blight

      Much of their ability to operate without harassment will depend on depend on deterrent power and ability to evade observation. Throw out enough ship-controlled UAVs or helicopters and keep civilian dhows BVR.

      Cynically, every missile that goes at one of these things is a missile not flying at a CBG. They will likely prioritize targeting towards the United States’s sustainable combat power first.

    • leesea

      all ships are targets, it depends on how the Navy protects them -organic weaps AND nearby FF(G).

  • stephen russell

    Served on sister ship USS Nashville LPD 13, Norfolk VA.
    Ponce needs major Remodelling for SOF missions alone
    New engines, armor, deck guns etc secure CIC for Mission.

  • Mickey

    That’s Gonna Kick a Lot of Iranian and syrian ass

  • Chic

    Am very concerned about the safety and security of the ship if it is to be anchored or
    moored for long eriods of time in one location. No amount of booms and netting will
    keep the terorists away, ans ship’s force would offer only minimal protection.

  • paul bartoswicz

    we had special ops types operating off the Trenton in the 80’s…loaded their boats beside the hanger and launched zodiacs out of the well deck…shouldn’t be to much to do to reconfigure the Ponce

  • P.J.Cochran

    I was aboard for first underway Harrier landing.Shot my bow in vehicle stow area on watch.Used first night vision from sponson. Loved it all.With 2nd BN 8th Marines at time =went to Med74 along side Saratoga saw my past skipper on deck from Vietnam.Wish I could go back again and do repel boarders .P.J.Cochran

  • Andy Hughes

    In related news, the Royal Navy has launched the HMS Queer.

  • Jill Trotchie

    The most embarrasing thing would be if they still kicked everyone ass with this ponce

  • jeff choce

    iI was on the PONCE from 84 till90 miss them days

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