The USS Lewis B. Puller is an expeditionary sea base stationed in the Arabian Sea.
Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed they hit the Puller on January 29, but US officials denied it.
Last month, two Navy SEALs died during a boarding operation that originated from the Puller.
The USS Lewis B. Puller is an expeditionary sea base designed to support a wide variety of military operations, including those involving Navy SEALs.
The floating base is deployed to the Arabian Sea in response to ongoing attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels, an Iranian-backed militant group in Yemen.
The 760-foot-long ESB has a unique silhouette, with an open-sided hangar space underneath the ship's sprawling flight deck that makes it resemble a floating parking lot. It was the launchpad for a Navy SEAL mission in January that seized missile parts bound for the Houthi rebels.
Photos show the massive warship and the operations conducted aboard.
Named after a legend
The Puller is named after Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" B. Puller, the most decorated Marine in history and the only one to receive five Navy Crosses.
The Marine leader served for 37 years and is best known for fighting in campaigns in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded his fifth Navy Cross in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950.
His award citation from the battle said Puller "served to inspire his men to heroic efforts in defense of their positions and assured the safety of much valuable equipment which would otherwise have been lost to the enemy."
The US Navy's first expeditionary sea base
The Puller is the lead ship in the Navy's ESB ship class and the service's first purpose-built mobile base vessel.
It's one of six in its class, including the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams, USS Miguel Keith, USS John L. Canley, USS Robert E. Simanek, and USS Hector A. Cafferata Jr. The Canley deployed in August 2023; the latter two are under construction.
The first US ship commissioned outside America
In 2017, the Puller was converted to a naval warship in a ceremony in Bahrain, making it the first US ship to be commissioned outside America.
It differs from the Navy's two previous expeditionary transfer docks, the USNS Montford Point and USNS John Glenn, in that ESBs can operate in more demanding and low-intensity missions by comparison, Navy officials have said.
The Puller, for example, can operate within a few dozen miles of adversaries and may regularly encounter combat aircraft, drones, and surface vessels.
"As the security environment becomes faster paced, more complex and increasingly competitive, with the ever-growing and evolving challenge of asymmetric threats from state and non-state actors alike, the Navy has a growing need to station more diverse and capable warships around the globe," Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, the commander of Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement in 2017. "Commissioning this expeditionary sea base, the USS Lewis B. Puller, will allow the Navy and Marine Corps team to meet the threats in the region head on."
Missing Navy SEALs
On January 11, the Puller was involved in an operation to seize Iranian missile parts from a dhow off the coast of Somalia in international waters in the Arabian Sea.
Navy SEALs launched in a small boat from the Puller for a mission known as a visit, board, search, and seizure. The SEALs approached the dhow in a fast boat and clambered up a ship ladder to detain its crew and search its holds for weapons bound for Yemen.
In a rare occurrence, two Navy SEALs involved in the operation were reported missing at sea after one SEAL slipped off the ladder and his teammate jumped in to save him. They were later presumed dead on Sunday following an "exhaustive" 10-day search.
Disputed Houthi attack
Last week, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, the Houthi spokesman, claimed with no evidence to have fired a missile at the Puller while the vessel was sailing through the Gulf of Aden as "part of military measures aimed at defending Yemen and supporting the oppressed Palestinian people."
Defense officials denied that the ship was attacked.
$650 million floating parking garage
The $650 million mobile sea platform was built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. Almost resembling a floating parking garage with a flight deck, it was designed to include aviation facilities, equipment staging support, and command-and-control assets.
The Puller can travel 15 knots and has an operational range of 9,500 nautical miles.
The Puller has a spacious flight deck with four rotary-wing landing spots, a mission deck, and a hangar, though the space is smaller than an aircraft carrier. Its design allows the ship to serve as a transfer point for small landing aircraft for equipment and cargo.
The ship's aft houses the accommodation and functional workspaces for its hybrid crew of civilian and military members.
Blue and Gold crews
A typical ESB crew includes 44 military sealift command personnel and 101 military, with accommodations for up to 250.
The Puller's military crew operates on a rotational model, and Blue and Gold Crews alternate on and off hull every five months. This allows the vessel to stay deployed and operate in hazardous areas for longer periods.
The Puller has been a part of numerous operations around the Arabian Sea.
In December 2022, naval forces aboard the Puller seized ammunition rounds, fuses, and propellants for rockets after it intercepted a fishing trawler in the Gulf of Oman.
The trawler, which was on a maritime route from Iran to Yemen, was illegally smuggling more than 50 tons of weapons to the Houthis, including more than 1 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, nearly 7,000 proximity fuses for rockets, and more than 2,100 kilograms of propellant used to launch rocket-propelled grenades.
The Puller was also involved in a counter-narcotics mission in January 2022, recovering $14.7 million in illicit drugs and saving injured mariners in the Gulf of Oman.
Military crew aboard the Puller also conduct a number of training and exercises during deployments. The photo above shows a live-fire exercise with a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.
Honing warfighting skills
Marines also participate in combat-marksmanship training through an intensive shooting course and in other drills. Some of the other types of training can be seen in the following photos.
'A revolutionary concept'
"The Puller isn't just another ship, but a revolutionary concept; a ship that provides us a key platform that will provide continuity to a variety of operations," Donegan said when the Puller was commissioned.
"Named after the most decorated Marine in American history, the USS Lewis B. Puller will provide greater operational flexibility to 5th Fleet, forward-deployed as the first ship built specifically for the purpose of serving as an expeditionary sea base," he added. "As such, it will augment our amphibious forces, not replace them, mine countermeasure forces, and provide an expeditionary sea base for maritime security operations throughout the region."
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