The construction of the US Navy’s future Montford Point-class USNS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) has commenced with a keel laying ceremony at General Dynamics’ (GD) National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego, California.

Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships Strategic Sealift and Theater Sealift programme manager captain Scot Searles said: “A keel laying is the first major milestone in the construction of a new ship.

“The keel is the symbolic backbone of the ship. Over the next several months ESB 5 will begin to take shape, and I look forward to seeing its progress as we continue constructing this versatile ship.”

"Over the next several months ESB 5 will begin to take shape, and I look forward to seeing its progress as we continue constructing this versatile ship."

The US Navy’s Montford Point-class fleet comprises five vessels across two variants.

ESB-type ships feature a highly flexible, modular configuration that is optimised to support a wide range of maritime-based operations, including Special Operations Force and Airborne Mine Counter Measures support operations, as well as humanitarian support and the sustainment of traditional military missions.

The navy ships are equipped with a four-spot flight deck and hangar, in addition to a versatile mission deck.

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The vessels’ design is based on four major capabilities, namely aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets.

AUSNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD 2) belong to the first variant of the Montford Point-class ships.

The vessels have been delivered to the US Navy and are currently in service.

The first vessel of the ESB variant, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), was previously delivered to the navy fleet as a USNS ship in 2015.

USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) was also christened in October last year and is expected to be delivered to the Military Sealift Command at the end of next month.