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Construction started on the future USNS Hector A Cafferata Jr (ESB 8), the US Navy’s sixth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD NASSCO) on 8 August 2023, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) reported on 11 August.

The ESB ship class is “highly flexible and used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases, similar to the Expeditionary Transfer Dock class”, NAVSEA stated. Acting as mobile sea bases, the ESB ships are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with flexible distribution.

Construction has begun on the future USNS Hector A Cafferata Jr (ESB 8), the US Navy’s sixth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) reported on 11 August 2023. (Photo: NAVSEA)

“The ESB platform has demonstrated they have not only the flexibility, but the capability the fleet needs while protecting our warfighting advantage,” Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift programme manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, was quoted as saying. “The ship will support a variety of mission sets while focusing on its core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support, and command and control operations.”

In July 2023 the ship was named by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro in honour of Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran Hector A Cafferata and is the first ship to carry his name.

GD NASSCO is also currently constructing the future USNS Robert E Simanek (ESB 7) as well as John Lewis-class Fleet Replenishment Oilers USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207), Robert F Kennedy (T-AO 208), Lucy Stone (T-209) and Sojourner Truth (T-AO 210), with Thurgood Marshall (T-AO 211), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (T-ASO 212) and T-AO 213 under contract.

As one of the US Department of Defense’s largest acquisition organisations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and boats and craft.

Peter Felstead