The Military Sealift Command’s newest expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB 4) completed her maiden voyage on July 5, arriving at Naval Station Norfolk from San Diego, California.
USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the second unit of the ESB variant, delivered to the navy in February 2018 after completing builder’s and acceptance trials in January.
Named after retired US Marine and Medal of Honor recipient, the 784-foot-long ship was built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego.
ESBs have a maximum speed of 15 knots and range of 9,500 nautical miles. They can hold 100,000 gallons of potable water and 350,000 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel. Acting as an expeditionary sea base, the ships can support a variety of maritime based missions including special operations force and airborne mine counter measures. The ESBs include a four-spot flight deck and hangar and are designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets.
The first two ships, formerly classified as mobile landing platforms (MLPs), were designed and constructed by NASSCO to support vehicle staging and transfers, and the movement of LCAC vessels. In 2012, a third ship, USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), was added to the contract and reconfigured as an ESB, formerly known as a MLP afloat forward staging base.
USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) was recommissioned from a US Military Sealift Command into a US Navy ship in August 2017 and received the prefix USS.
A fifth ship in the class, the future USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) officially started construction at a keel-laying ceremony in San Diego on January 30, 2018.