The United States Navy is in the process of placing a ‘mothership’ for Special Ops Forces in the Middle East, according to a Fox News report. The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.
The USS Ponce was initially scheduled to be decommissioned in December 2011. Navy officials are now stating that the vessel will be converted into a convoy to be utilized by Navy SEALs. This change in decision stems from a standing request from the U.S. Central Command to the Pentagon for the base. The Central Command oversees military operations in the Middle East, and will be able to use the ship for high speed boats and helicopters. The Washington Post reports that the deployment of the floating base could also mark a return to maritime missions for SEAL teams.
A Military Sealift command market survey asked that the ship be able to support mine counter measures, as sea mines are a concern in the Strait of Hormuz if Iran does go through with closing off the vital oil passage.
The ship should be completely transformed in an estimated four to five months. Special Operations Command has wanted a transportable floating base for some time, and it could expand the range of commando squads operating in remote coastal areas.
Contracts and bidding documents for this project emphasize its urgency. Contract bids are due February 3, 2012. The Navy wants conversion work to begin on the Ponce no more than 10 days later. The ship is now docked in Virginia Beach.