The MPS Program at Quincy Shipbuilding
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The MPS Concept, Capabilities, & Characteristics
An early artist's concept of the Maritime Prepositioning Ships in action.
The MPS program represented a significant departure from most previous
sealift ship concepts. In the past there had been two general types of
transport ships - the Amphibious Force and the Sealift Fleet. Amphibious
ships were intended to transport and land an invasion force directly onto
an enemy beach. Sealift ships were intended as resupply and
logistics ships, unloading their cargoes in secure ports, generally
staying away from the beachead. Sealift ships often carried only one type
of cargo (vehicles, fuels, stores, or troops, for example), whereas
Amphibious ships generally needed to carry the full range of cargo in each
The Maritime Prepositioning Ships combined aspects of the traditional
"amphibious" and "sealift" roles into a single platform. The MPSs are
capable of transporting an entire landing force, with all the required
equipment and supplies, and landing the force directly onto the beach,
with no port facilities. In addition, the ships are prepositioned, moored
in a ready-to-steam condition in various ports around the world, near
potential "hot spots". Prepositioning allows much faster response to
rapidly-developing conficts or crises, since the ships need only sail a
relatively short distance, rather than deploying from the United States.
The MPS concept calls for the the ships to get underway and steam towards
the crisis area when needed, while the Marines fly in from the United
States to meet up with the ships. However, these ships are designed as
unarmed, civilian-manned vessels, and are not intended as the "first wave"
of an assault on a hostile beach. Instead, they would serve as the "first
wave" only when entering a non-hostile situation, or as a "second wave"
behind the Amphibious Force, and escorted by the fleet. After their
cargo was unloaded in the theater of operations, they could serve in a
resupply role, augmenting the conventional sealift
A later artist's concept, showing the Quincy prepositioning ships in their
Although the scene is somewhat fanciful, it does show many key
characteristics of the MPSs. The vessels are shown anchored offshore,
starting to unload their cargoes. Each ship carries 11 lighters/causeway
section/warping tugs and two conventional landing craft to ferry the cargo
ashore. The landing craft and cargo are unloaded by the ships' 39 ton
cranes. In addition, each ship has a slewing stern ramp, which can launch
amphibious vehicles directly into the sea, or land conventional vehicles
to a pier. There is also a large helicopter deck for quick transfer of
small, high-priority cargo. Not shown, but equally important, are the
hose reels and specialized equipment provided to allow liquid cargoes
(primarily fuels) to be pumped ashore while the vessel is anchored up to
two miles offshore.
A builder's model of the Quincy MPS ships.
This model shows the hose reels for offshore fuel discharge (forward),
along with numerous causway sections/lighters, landing craft (aft), and
containerized cargo (black boxes) on deck. The large superstructure block
aft houses the ship's crew, and quarters for a Marine Corps "surge team"
that could be sent to the ship in advance to prepare the cargo for
A cutaway of the Quincy MPS builder's model.
The model shows seven vehicle decks filling the aft two-thirds of the
ship, providing 150,000 square feet (approximately four acres) of space
for vehicles. Forward of the vehicle decks, there are large holds for
container stowage, which are supplemented by weather-decks container
stowages. In addition, the ships carry over 1.6 million gallons of cargo
fuels - gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
Ship Characteristics & Capabilities
- Principal Dimensions
- Displacement: 41,700 tons
- Overall Length: 673 feet
- Beam: 105.5 feet
- Draft: 29.5 feet
- Propulsion & Machinery
- Engines: 2 medium-speed diesels, 1 shaft, 26,400 hp
- Speed: 18.8 knots maximum; 17.7 knots cruise speed
- Range: 11,100 nautical miles at 17.7 knots
- Three 2000 kw diesel generators
- Cargo Handling Facilities
- Cranes: five 39-ton cranes; rated for operation in seas up to five feet
- Stern ramp: 66 ton capacity; accommodates all Marine Corps vehicles; can
launch amphibious vehicles in five-foot seas
- Offshore cargo discharge: liquid cargoes can be pumped ashore while the ship is anchored two miles offshore
- Four-point mooring system for station-keeping in 50 knot winds and 3 knot current
- Helicopter deck for all Marine Corps helicopters, including the CH-53E
- Potable water production from two
distilling plants; 36,000 gallon/day capacity
- Accommodations: 30 ship's crew (civilian),
7 Military Sealift Command (civilian), 7 Navy, 25 vehicle maintenance
personnel (civilian); 102 temporary berths for vehicle crews
- Vehicle Cargo
- Seven vehicle decks
- Clear heights range from 6.5 feet to 15 feet
- 150,000 square feet (approximately four acres) total vehicle space
- Approximately 1400 vehicles accommodated
- Containerized Cargo - 522
standard (20 foot) containers, including the following
- 230,000 cubic feet for munitions
- 101,000 cubic feet for general cargo & stores
- 18,000 cubic feet for refrigerated stores
- 433 drums lubricating oil (containerized)
- Fuels & Water
- 200,000 gallons gasoline
- 540,000 gallons diesel fuel
- 855,000 gallons jet fuel
- 82,000 gallons potable water
- Deck Cargo
- 2 LCM(8) landing craft
- 10 lighters/causeway sections (6 unpowered, 4 powered)
- 1 warping tug/lighter
- 4 pipe trailers and 16 hose reels for the offshore cargo discharge system
- Discharge Rates
- Pierside: all vehicles and 16% of bulk cargo in 12 hours
- Pierside: all cargo in three days
- Anchored Offshore: all cargo in five days
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Photos are General Dynamics or US Navy Official unless otherwise noted.
Some General Dynamics photos provided courtesy of Alden Sproul.
Copyright © 2003, Andrew Toppan. All Rights Reserved.
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