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Ponce Not Quite Floating Spec Ops Base

by John Reed on January 31, 2012

Well,  the Navy is trying to downplay the special operations role the USS Ponce will play after it is converted into a floating base for anti-mining, coastal patrol and special operations missions in the Persian Gulf.

The amphibious transport dock, commissioned in 1970 is being rapidly converted into an interim Afloat Forward Staging Base for such missions, with special operations being a particular focus area, the Washington Post reported last week.

However, Adm. John Harvey, commander of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, said this morning that the ship will not be a commando “death star,” according to multiple news reports.

“I think they put two and two together and got 22.” US News quoted Harvey as saying.

“It is not a special operations ‘deathstar,” instead the ship will “support mine [warfare] ships-not project SEALS,” the Fleet Forces Command chief said.

The four-star said the notion that Ponce will be a base for special operators from the solicitation to industry requesting bids to modify the ship, saying Navy officials do intend to build in some “spaces … to be usable by SOF.”

The Washington Post cited numerous Navy and Pentagon officials as saying the ship will be used for special operations missions in addition to anti-mine duties.

A market survey in which the Navy sought a vessel to serve as the floating base listed a requirement for the ship to be able to host  12 small boats and four choppers of the type that are frequently used by Navy SEAL commandos, mine hunters as well as coastal and river patrol teams.

Specifically, the ship must be able to simultaneously support two “riverine command boats” four “small unit riverine craft, four Mk-5 Zodiac boats and two seven-meter rigid hull inflatable boats as well as four MH-53 size helicopters and 370 personnel, according to the market survey.

The ship is being rushed into service as a floating base due to increased concerns that Iran may try to close the Strait of Hormuz.

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