Home Americas US Navy lays keel for fifth Expeditionary Sea Base ship

US Navy lays keel for fifth Expeditionary Sea Base ship

USS Robert E. Simanek keel laying
Photo: US Navy

The US Navy laid the keel for future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), its fifth Lewis B. Puller-class Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), in a ceremony at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego on October 21.

The ship is named for Private First Class Robert Ernest Simanek, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for shielding fellow Marines from a grenade at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Korean War. The Medal of Honor was presented to him by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a White House ceremony in 1953.

Simanek recently passed away on August 1, 2022. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he received a Purple Heart award, the Korean Service Medal with two bronze service stars, the United Nations Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. His daughter, Ann Simanek, is the sponsor of the ship and attended the keel laying ceremony.

“We are honored this ship will celebrate the late Robert E. Simanek’s legacy as a Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran and his dedication to our country,” said Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office Ships. “ESBs provide a critical capability to the fleet and provide for increased flexibility.”

ESB ships USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) sail together in the Gulf of Aden in July 2022. Photo: US Navy

Expeditionary Sea Base 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 have a reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment, including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

After they initially operated with a USNS designation, the navy decided in 2019 to commission all Expeditionary Sea Base ships to allow them to conduct a broader and more lethal mission set compared to original plans.

The ESB were initially envisioned as support ships, bearing the USNS designation and having a mixed civilian and US Navy crew. The navy changed its mind with the commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller (formerly USNS Lewis B. Puller) in order to be able to conduct military operations directly from the ship in line with international laws of armed conflict.

A Navy O-6 commands ESBs and a hybrid-manned crew of military personnel and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.

GD-NASSCO is currently also working on future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6) and the John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO).