On Dec. 1 in San Diego, General Dynamics NASSCO began construction on the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), the fifth ship of the Navy’s reclassified Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) program.
Dennis DuBard, a long-time NASSCO employee and the Start of Construction honoree, initiated the first cut of steel used to build the vessel.
The ship is named in honor of a Marine Corps veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor after he threw himself on an enemy grenade shielding his fellow Marines during the Korean War.
“Today, we start construction of the ship that honors the life and service of the ship’s namesake, Marine Corps Private First Class Robert E. Simanek,” NASSCO President Dave Carver said of the war hero. “This ship represents the thousands of men and women who will spend roughly two million hours building this ship.”
ESB ships are flexible platforms designed to support multiple maritime-based missions, including Air Mine Counter Measures (AMCM), Special Operations Forces (SOF) and limited crisis response.
This 784-foot ship, according to NASSCO, is expected to act as a mobile sea base and be configured with a 52,000 square-foot flight deck to support MH-53, MH-60, MV-22 tilt-rotor, and H1 aircraft operations.
“ESBs are optimized to support the core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support and command and control operations,” explained Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager with Program Executive Office Ships, the agency that’s responsible for the design and construction of destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, as well as boats and craft for U.S. agencies and foreign military sales.
“ESBs have demonstrated their ability to enhance the fleet’s flexibility and capability as they operate around the world,” Roberts said. “The addition of the future USS Robert E. Simanek will help continue to provide critical access in the maritime domain.”
The first three ships in the ESB program—USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5)—have each been delivered. The fourth ship in the program, the future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6), is scheduled to be launched in the summer of 2022.