US Navy lays keel of future Lewis B. Puller-class ESB Robert E. Simanek

According to information published by the US DoD on October 25, 2022, the keel for the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), a Lewis B. Puller-class Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), was laid at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Keel laying ceremony for the future Lewis B. Puller-class ESB USS Robert E. Simanek. (Picture source: US DoD)

Expeditionary Sea Base ships are highly flexible platforms used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are a part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with adaptable distribution capability.

These ships support Aviation Mine Countermeasure and Special Operations Force missions. In addition to the flight deck, the ESB has a hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, workspaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force, enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I).

These ships support embarked force mission planning and execution and has a reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment, including mine sleds and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs).

In 2019, the Navy decided to commission all Expeditionary Sea Base ships to allow them to conduct a broader and more lethal mission set compared to original plans for them to operate with a USNS designation.

A Navy O-6 commands ESBs and a hybrid-manned crew of military personnel and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners. This crew makeup provides combatant commanders with increased operational flexibility in employing the platform.

Construction of the future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6) and the Navy's John Lewis Class Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO) are ongoing at GD-NASSCO.

USS Robert E. Simanek will have a length of 785 ft (239 m), a beam of 164 ft (50 m), and a draft of 34.4 ft (10.5 m). She will reach a top speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph).