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Video Above: Navy Connects Air, Surface, Underseas Drones

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Navy weapons developers are expanding the mission scope and technological capacity of its growing fleet of Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ships, maritime platforms intended to function as mobile maritime “sea bases” during war operations. 

ESBs can function as floating command and control hubs, or motherships in position to dispatch small, high-speed attack units or even launch drones. Launching and operating drones from an ESB can in large measure come to fruition by integrating Littoral Combat Ship mission systems onto the ship, Navy weapons developers said.

Expeditionary Sea Base

The expeditionary sea base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) participates in a photo exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, Aug. 20, 2020. Hershel "Woody" Williams is on its inaugural deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of responsibility in support of maritime missions and special operations.

“We have already tested the ability to fit, launch and recover unmanned systems from an ESB,” Littoral Combat Ship Mission Packages Manager Capt. Gus Weekes told an audience at the 2022 Surface Navy Symposium.

The LCS mission packages, which include Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Mine Countermeasures systems continue to show great promise with operations on deployment and in testing and development for those parts which have yet to reach operational status. The promise and impact of these mission packages, coupled with the relative ease with which they can integrate into host ships, is what has inspired the service to put them on ESBs.
“There is some additional testing, verification and validation that needs to happen, but we’ve sorted a parth. It could be the ESB for our Unmanned Influence Sweep System suite,” Weekes said.

he Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) is at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 15, 2019 during mine countermeasure equipment testing. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released)

he Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) is at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 15, 2019 during mine countermeasure equipment testing. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released)

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It would make sense that a floating seabase would benefit from an ability to launch and recover drone boats searching for mines or conducting surveillance and attack missions. The mission packages can be integrated easily because they were designed to be “modular.” meaning that they were built with a set of common technical standards and interfaces such that they can accommodate new systems and technologies as they become available. 

The Navy has started construction on its fifth ESB, the future USS Robert E. Simanek,The ESB class is being increasingly tailored for mobile “sea basing” for strategic reasons connected to the U.S. Navy’s growing Pacific emphasis. 

The sheer maritime expanse of the Pacific is filled with dangerous flashpoints such as the South China Sea, Senkaku Islands near Japan, and of course Taiwan. Any great power confrontation in the Pacific would rely heavily upon the U.S. Navy’s ability to project and sustain power from the sea. The ESB platform designs and technological configurations may be evolving as they are in part for this reason. 

SAN DIEGO - Construction started on the fifth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) in San Diego during a small ceremony, Dec. 1.

SAN DIEGO - Construction started on the fifth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), the future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), at General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) in San Diego during a small ceremony, Dec. 1.

“ESBs are optimized to support the core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support, and command and control operations,” Tim Roberts, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, said in a Navy statement last year. The future USS Robert E. Simanek is being built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company.

-- Kris Osborn is the President and Editor-in-Chief of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn President & Editor-in-Chief Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization www.warriormaven.com 540 680 1952

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization