US building 'mothership' for launching Navy Seal raids
The US is rushing to convert an aging Navy vessel into a 'mothership' from which to launch commando raids into the Middle East and...
|The US is rushing to convert an aging Navy vessel into a 'mothership' from which to launch commando raids into the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. USS Ponce (Telegraph)|
Documents released by the Pentagon show that the military is urgently refitting the USS Ponce, a 1960s transport ship, so that it can accommodate the speed boats and Blackhawk helicopters favoured by America's special forces.
The vessel had been scheduled for decommissioning but was given a new lease of life after requests from US Central Command, which has responsibility for American troops in the region, for a floating base that could remain anchored in one spot for weeks at a time.
It is expected to be deployed by early summer, the Washington Post reported.
The plan was revealed just days after US Navy SEALs swept into Somalia to rescue two hostages from pirates.
As the US military braces for cuts of around $487 billion over the next decade it is has increasingly turned to its elite commandos as a low-cost alternative to large numbers of ground troops.
Details of the plan for 'Afloat Forward Staging Base' emerged in procurement documents released by the US Defence Department this week.
The files also that the ship could be used to "support mine countermeasure" - possibly an indication that it would feature in American admirals' plans for re-opening the Strait of Hormuz should Iran ever follow through on its threat to block the vital oil channel.
The US Fifth Fleet is already based in the region and is usually supported by one or two aircraft carrier strike groups, so the new deployment would add little to America' overall firepower in the region but would commanders a useful tool for launching operations with a small but high-stakes, such as hostage rescue or the assassination of high-profile al-Qaeda leaders.