General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) has started construction on the US Navy’s fifth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) vessel.

The company has held a small ceremony to celebrate the construction. This fifth ESB 7 vessel is named after Marine Corps veteran Robert E Simanek.

US Navy Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships Strategic and Theater Sealift programme manager Tim Roberts said: “ESBs are optimised to support the core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support, and command and control operations.

“The ESBs have demonstrated their ability to enhance the fleet’s flexibility and capability as they operate around the world.

“The addition of the future USS Robert E Simanek will help continue to provide critical access in the maritime domain.”

ESB ships are designed to support multiple maritime-based missions, such as air mine counter measures (AMCM), special operations forces (SOF), and limited crisis response.

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The 784ft ship, acting as a mobile sea base, will be equipped with a 52,000ft² flight deck to support operations of MV-22 tilt-rotor, MH-53, MH-60, and H1 aircraft.

General Dynamics NASSCO president Dave Carver said: “Today, we start construction of the ship that honours the life and service of the ship’s namesake, Marine Corps Private First Class Robert E Simanek.

“This ship represents the thousands of men and women who will spend roughly two million hours building this ship.”

GD-NASSCO has already delivered the first three ESBs (ESB 3, ESB 4, ESB 5) and is currently constructing the future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6), the fourth ship in the ESB programme.

ESB 6 is scheduled for launch in the summer of next year.