The US Navy has officially authenticated the keel for its fifth Lewis B Puller-class expeditionary sea base (ESB) ship, the future USS Robert E Simanek (ESB 7).

The new milestone was marked by a keel-laying ceremony at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company’s (GD-NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego on 21 October.

ESB 7 is named after US Marine Corps (USMC) former private first class Robert Ernest Simanek, who passed away earlier this year on 1 August. 

Simanek received a Medal of Honour in 1953 for protecting his fellow Marines from a grenade at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Korean War.

The vessel is sponsored by the namesake’s daughter Ann Simanek, who was present at the keel-laying ceremony.

US Navy Programme Executive Office (PEO) Ships Strategic and Theatre Sealift programme manager Tim Roberts said: “We are honoured this ship will celebrate the late Robert E Simanek’s legacy as a Medal of Honour recipient and Korean War veteran and his dedication to our country.

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“ESBs provide a critical capability to the fleet and provide for increased flexibility.”

The US Navy, in 2019, confirmed the commissioning of all the ESB platforms that will be deployed for carrying out various lethal operations.

All the ESBs are operated by a hybrid crew, comprising military personnel and civilian mariners from the Military Sealift Command (MSC).

This hybrid configuration provides enhanced operational flexibility to the US Navy O-6 commanders, who command ESBs, to employ the vessel for different roles, including deployment as a mobile sea base and supporting several operational phases.

Apart from ESB 7, GD-NASSCO is also engaged in the construction of the future USS John L Canley (ESB 6) and the US Navy’s John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO).