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…

    • AlC

      It’s new to the current crop running the USN.

      We used LSTs during Vietnam for offshore basing and repair (ARLs)
      But few of those officers wend on two management positions later in their careers so the knowledge was lost.

  • agwnonsense

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

  • 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.

    • dave

      i was on the ponce in 85-86 this ship sucked bad they could have used the tarawa class ships better uss saipan would have been better

  • lalaland

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

    • Adam

      Yeah, DoD/NSA are spending lots of time on UrbanDictionary analyzing UK slang. Total dark ops/analysis, of course. Ponce is probably either camouflage, psyops, or why not simply the new gay friendly US military?

  • 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.

  • 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…..

    • STemplar

      Funny and kind of sad how many times we have jury rigged this option over the decades and been very successful, and we are just now getting to a purpose built option.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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