Prepositioning (PM3)
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Our Prepositioning (PM3) program is an essential element in the U.S. military's readiness strategy. Afloat prepositioning strategically places military equipment and supplies aboard ships located in key ocean areas to ensure rapid availability during a major theater war, a humanitarian operation or other contingency. MSC's seventeen prepositioning ships support the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Defense Logistics Agency.

Prepositioning ships provide quick and efficient movement of military gear between operating areas without reliance on other nations' transportation networks. These ships give U.S. regional combatant commanders the assurance that they will have what they need to quickly respond in a crisis - anywhere, anytime. During a contingency, troops are flown into a theater of operations to rapidly employ the cargo from these ships.

Many of MSC's prepositioning ships are able to discharge liquid, containerized or motorized cargo both pier side or while anchored offshore by using floating hoses and shallow-draft watercraft, called lighterage, that are carried aboard. This allows cargo to be ferried to shore in areas where ports are non-existent or in poor condition and gives the nation's military forces the ability to operate in both developed and undeveloped areas of the world.

While most active ships in MSC's Prepositioning Program strategically place combat gear at sea, there are other ships, including:

  • The Expeditionary Sea Base, a new class of ships designed to serve as a mobile sea-base option that provides our Navy fleet with a critical access infrastructure supporting the flexible deployment of forces and supplies.
  • Offshore petroleum distribution system ships that can deliver fuel from up to 8 miles offshore.

Ship Types

Expeditionary Sea Base. USS Lewis B. Puller is the Navy's first purpose-built afloat forward staging base and has a hybrid-manned crew with a combination of military personnel and civilian mariners. The ESBs are designed to provide dedicated support for air mine countermeasures and special warfare missions and is capable of executing additional missions including counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Expeditionary Transfer Dock. The Expeditionary Transfer Dock is a key component of the MPF program and serves as a transfer station to facilitate delivery of equipment cargo to areas with limited or unavailable port access.

Maritime Prepositioning Force ships strategically position supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps at sea. These ships are laden with a variety of Marine Corps equipment and supplies, including tanks, ammunition, food, water, cargo, hospital equipment, petroleum products and spare parts - ready for rapid delivery ashore when needed.

MPF ships are organized into two Maritime Prepositioning Ship (MPS) squadrons, each comprising four to six MPF ships as well as additional prepositioning ships dedicated to other military services. Each MPS squadron carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain more than 16,000 Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Navy personnel for up to 30 days.

Offshore Petroleum Distribution System (OPDS). Offshore petroleum distribution system ships can deliver fuel from up to 8 miles offshore.