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Press Release

MSC PAO 97-17
April 10, 1997
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Nancy Breen
(202) 685-5055

MSC awards contract for second MPF(E) ship

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command awarded a firm, fixed price contract in the amount of $150 million to Ocean Marine Navigation Co., Inc. of Annapolis, Md., for the purchase, conversion and operation and maintenance of GTS Bazaliya, a Grenadian-flagged roll-on/roll-off ship. Of the total contract award amount, $100 million is for the purchase and conversion work, and $50 million is for the operation and maintenance of the ship for the first five years. When the ship is delivered to MSC, it will be reflagged in the United States and renamed USNS LCpl. Roy M. Wheat in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life to save the lives of two other Marines in a land mine explosion in Vietnam on Aug. 11, 1967.

Upon delivery to MSC, Wheat will become the second ship in the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced), or MPF(E), program. This contract award is for Phase II of the program—the purchase and conversion of an existing ship—and Phase III, the operation and maintenance of that ship for the first five years following delivery. Conversion work will be performed by Bender Shipbuilding and Repair Co., Inc. of Mobile, Ala., and will include the insertion of a mid-body and other structural work to allow greater and more efficient cargo capacity, as well as the addition of cranes and other modifications to make the ship suitable for its prepositioning role.

The MPF(E) procurement is a three-phase program designed to increase the capability of the three existing Maritime Prepositioning Ship squadrons through the addition of a converted ship to each of the squadrons. Phase I of the program was executed in April 1996 when the Naval Sea Systems Command awarded five engineering design contracts for the conversion of an existing ship to an MPF(E) ship. The contract award by Military Sealift Command constitutes Phase II and Phase III of the process. Phase II is the selection of a contractor to proceed with the conversion of an existing vessel, and Phase III is for the operation and maintenance of that ship for the first five years following conversion.

Acquisition and conversion of three MPF(E) ships satisfy the requirement for additional MPF cargo capacity. The specific new capabilities to be prepositioned in each MPS squadron include an expeditionary airfield, a Navy mobile construction battalion and a fleet hospital. The converted ships will be capable of simultaneous roll-on, roll-off and lift-on, lift-off operations both pierside and in-stream. Each ship will have a flight deck for helicopter operations, but will not carry operational aircraft. Prepositioning of this additional equipment with the MPS squadrons will significantly enhance Marine air-ground task force capabilities available to the war-fighting commanders.

The concept of prepositioning began in the early 1980s when the Near Term Prepositioning Force was established. Later, 13 Maritime Prepositioning Ships, five new construction and eight conversions, were acquired to become part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force. The 13 MPS are privately owned vessels chartered to the U.S. Navy and operated by civilian mariners employed by a company under contract to MSC. They carry tactical equipment and cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps.

In a crisis situation, Marine Corps personnel are flown to a contingency site to coincide with MPS ship arrival. Once personnel have arrived in the theater of operations, the ships are off-loaded and Marines can move quickly into combat with the necessary equipment and supplies. The 13 MPS currently in the Maritime Prepositioning Force are divided into three squadrons which operate in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean. Each of the four-to-five ship squadrons can carry all of the equipment and supplies to support a Marine Air-Ground Task Force of about 17,300 people for a period of 30 days.

The contract for the first MPF(E) ship, USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin, was awarded to Tarago Shipholding Corporation of Bethesda, Md., on Feb. 14, 1997.