In early 2013 the U.S. Navy received the first (USNS Montford Point) of three Mobile Landing Platform (T-MLP) ships. Montford Point successfully completed its sea trials and is to enter service in March 2014. The navy has two more of these under construction and is fighting with Congress for money to build a fourth. The navy wants to use two of these new ships to serve as floating bases to support commando type operations ashore.
MLPs are 34,500 ton vessels that, in effect, serve as seagoing piers for situations where there is no friendly port handy. Each is 239 meters (785 feet) long and has up to 2,322 square meters (25,000 square feet) of space for storage of vehicles and aircraft. The second two MLPs will be the AFSB (Afloat Forward Staging Base) variant that has command and control equipment (electronics and communications gear) added as well as distinct flight deck area.
The MLP looks like a container ship with the main deck lowered to approximately the height of a dock. On the side of the MLP are mooring fenders (so cargo ships can, literally, tie up like at a dock). The MLP also has ramps for getting cargo from ships or a dock. Cargo would be transferred to landing craft or LCAC (air-cushion high speed landing craft which can carry 60 tons of cargo). The MLP can also partially submerge itself so that its deck is underwater. Landing craft can then move over the deck and the MLP can bring its deck back out of the water so the landing craft can be loaded. Currently MLPs are to each carry three LCACs. The AFSB variants can also carry helicopters and MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft. The navy plans to increase the fire resistance of part of the deck so that the AFSBs can also handle vertical takeoff version of the F-35.
Each T-MLP costs $500 million and is built to commercial (not military) ship standards and uses a civilian crew (as is the case with all USNS ships). Each can carry over 1.5 million liters of fuel. The T-MLP is highly automated and only needs a crew of 34.