USS PONCE was the 12th and last ship in the AUSTIN - class of Amphibious Transport Docks. The ship was named after the city in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, named after the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, discoverer of Florida, first governor of Puerto Rico. The PONCE was originally scheduled to be decommissioned on March 30, 2012, however, decommissioning was cancelled and the ship was subsequently converted to an Afloat Forward Staging Base to support MH-53 helicopters and patrol craft. She was then jointly operated by a MSC/Navy crew and operated out of Manama, Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf. In 2014, PONCE tested the laser weapons system, the first of its kind to be employed aboard a deployed US Navy warship. PONCE’s participation in the development of this system was essential to defining a generation of directed energy weapons. Replaced by USS LEWIS B. PULLER (ESB 3) in August 2017, PONCE departed Bahrain on September 3, 2017, and returned to the United States for decommissioning.
|General Characteristics:||Awarded: May 17, 1965|
|Keel laid: October 31, 1966|
|Launched: May 20, 1970|
|Commissioned: July 10, 1971|
|Decommissioned: October 14, 2017|
|Builder: Lockheed Shipbuilding Co., Seattle, Wash.|
|Propulsion system: two boilers, two steam turbines|
|Length: 569 feet (173.4 meters)|
|Beam: 105 feet (32 meters)|
|Draft: 23 feet (7 meters)|
|ballasted: 34 feet (10.4 meters)|
|Displacement: approx. 16,900 tons|
|Speed: 21 knots|
|Well deck capacity: one LCAC or one LCU or four LCM-8 or nine LCM-6 or 24 amphibious assault vehicles (AAV)|
|Aircraft: none, but telescopic hangar installed aboard. The hangar is not used to accommodate helicopters but on the flight deck there is space for up to six |
|Crew: Ship: 24 officers, 396 enlisted|
|Marine Detachment: approx. 900|
|Armament: two |
This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS PONCE. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.
USS PONCE Cruise Books:
Accidents aboard USS PONCE:
|1977 / 1978||Moorehead City, NC||Either in the fall or spring of 1977 or 1978, the USS PONCE runs aground outside of the harbor of Moorehead City, NC, after missing the harbor entrance. The PONCE was about to embark Marines for a Med cruise. Damage was minor and the PONCE was laid up for about a week.|
Info by Richard Othmer, former BM3 aboard PONCE.
|February 2, 1982||Atlantic||USS PONCE collides with USS FORT SNELLING (LSD 30) during a towing exercise which causes minor damage to PONCE's port side, mainly to the accommodation ladder and flight deck catwalk. The two ships were en route to Portsmouth, UK.|
|February 14, 1984||Radio Island, near Moorehead City, NC||During attempts to move an assault craft to Radio Island, USS PONCE suffers a major casualty when her sterngate is damaged and eventually lost. PONCE goes to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for repairs.|
USS PONCE Image Gallery:
The photos below were taken by me and show the PONCE at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on November 9, 2008.
The photos below were taken by me and show the PONCE at Norfolk, Va., after completion of her convertion and modification to an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). Work was conducted at MHI Ship Repair & Services in Norfolk, Va., and included replacing bridge equipment with modern commercial systems for the CIVMARs who will navigate, operate and maintain the ship. In addition, PONCE's main propulsion boilers were overhauled; main and auxiliary condensers were cleaned; additional overhauls were made and maintenance performed on existing ship's equipment; and the galley was upgraded and overhauled. Soon, PONCE will be redesignated AFSB(I) 15 while the "I" stands for interim.
The first photo shows PONCE returning to Norfolk, Va., from sea trials on May 4, 2012, while the other photos show her berthed at the Naval Base on May 6, 2012.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the PONCE at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 4, 2017, shortly after returning to the East Coast after completing more than five years of forward-deployed duty in Bahrain. PONCE departed Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP), Bahrain, for the last time on September 3 and arrived at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va., on September 22. She arrived at Norfolk five days later and commenced preparations for her October 14 decommissioning.