The Department of Defense awarded six separate defense contracts Wednesday, worth $960 million in total. Among the largest of the contracts awarded:

General Dynamics' (NYSE:GD) National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. subsidiary was awarded a $128.5 million contract modification to perform detailed design and construction work necessary to convert the U.S. Navy's planned Mobile Landing Platform USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3) into an Afloat Forward Staging Base (T-AFSB-1).

The Puller will be the first of a (short) line of Mobile Landing Platforms designed to function as floating forward staging bases for amphibious assaults, humanitarian aid work, anti-piracy missions, and mine-sweeping. Measuring 837 feet long and displacing 80,000 tons, the vessel will have room to carry up to four CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and nearly 300 special operations and other troops. It will be designed to travel at speeds up to 15 knots, and to have a range of 9,500 nautical miles. A total of two AFSBs are currently expected to be built, the Puller and an as-yet unnamed vessel currently designated MLP-4.

NASSCO laid the keel for the Puller on Nov. 5 and expects to deliver the vessel to the Navy in October 2015.

Artist's conception of how USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3) will look when complete. Source: Wikimedia Commons.