Army Prepositioned Stock (APS-3)

The Army Prepositioning Afloat (APA) / Combat Prepositioning Force [CPF] Combat Prepositioning [PREPO] afloat is made up of ships from the Afloat Pre-positioning Force (APF) of the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The flexibility inherent in the APF makes this force a key element in joint operation planning; the APF is capable of supporting the plans for the entire range of military operations. Pre-positioned cargoes aboard APF shipping include the capability to provide humanitarian assistance with food rations, medical supplies, habitability sets (i.e., tents), potable water-making machinery, engineer support equipment, and motor transport. To enable the early delivery of combat power to a theater of operations, additional equipment such as tanks and artillery are pre-positioned. Elements of the APF may be temporarily moved to take up position close to a potential employment area, either to signal national resolve during an evolving crisis or enhance the timely delivery of supplies and equipment upon the decision to deploy a decisive force.

Army Prepositioned Stock 3 (APS-3) contained two brigades-worth of materiel that were stored aboard 16 ships. The initial 2x2 brigade set consisted of two armor battalions and two mechanized infantry battalions. As of June 2001, APS-3 consisted of 10 ships. A 2x1 Bde Set Included: 88 Tanks; 54 BFVs; 331 Other Tracked Vehicles; and 849 Wheeled Vehicles.

At end state, these assets consisted of one (1) 2x2 Brigade Set on various ships and one (1) 1x1 Brigade Set on various ships [the second brigade set was prepositioned Afloat in FY01/02 for a total of seven prepositioned sets). The Army prepositioned the additional 1X1 (Armor X Mechanized) Brigade afloat as part of APS-3 on two LMSRs (USNS Dahl/USNS Sisler) in April and July 2002 consecutively based on Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) directives.

The Operations Support Command (OSC) had responsibility for AWR-3. The pre-positioned ships were loaded at the Strategic Logistics Mobility Base, Charleston, South Carolina. Hythe Army Depot Activity, England, maintains the Army watercraft that were part of the AWR-3 equipment. The watercraft are used to open ports, provide logistics-over-the-shore, and serve as lighterage. At any given time, about half the APS-3 watercraft are riding aboard a heavy-lift, pre-positioned ship in the Indian Ocean. Hythe sent employees to help download watercraft during operations in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. AWR-3, PREPO Afloat, gives a brigade of equipment for four maneuver battalions and a direct support artillery battalion, along with its requisite combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) and 30 days of sustainment supplies.

During VIGILANT WARRIOR, the 24th ID(M) offloaded, reconfigured and fully exercised the set of equipment, which facilitates a powerful response in a flexible package that can be delivered to any port near any trouble spot within CENTCOM's AOR or to any deep water port in the world.

With APS-5, APS-3 and Qatar, the Army could muster eight maneuver battalions. The CENTCOM commander in chief's (CINC's) goal is to pre-position a division of equipment [including nine maneuver battalions] on the Arabian peninsula.

The DOD goal for APS-3 was mandated at 2 million square feet of cargo stowage space aboard prepositioned ships. The ASMP prepositioning afloat program includes the lease/ operation of the ships fleet and operation of two prepositioning ship maintenance facilities used to fulfill the APS-3 prepositioning afloat strategy. The objective APS-3 fleet would contain 15 ships including 8 new construction Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off ships (LMSR).

Fielding of the LMSRs was being implemented in three phases.

  • Phase I was completed in November 1998 with the upload of prepositioned equipment to the U.S. Navy Ship WATSON, the first new construction LMSR. All previously used ships in the interim fleet have been returned to the Ready Reserve Force (RRF).
  • Phase II, completed in FY 00, involved upload of equipment to 2 new construction LMSRs (Dahl and Red Cloud). The Army began uploading corps and theater CS/CSS sustainement on new construction LMSRs during the April 1999-January 2000 timeframe at Antwerp, Belgium. The majority of cargo positioned on these ships was drawn from USAREUR re-distributable stocks.
  • In the FY 01-02 timeframe, Phase III completed with the transfer of equipment from the converted LMSRs to the remaining new construction LMSRs. During FY01 this consisted of the upload of 2 new construction LMSRs (Charlton and Watkins), and during FY02 this completed with the upload final 3 new LMSRs (Pomeroy and LMSR #19 and #20)

Additionally, during FY01-02, three Lighter Aboard Ships (LASH) vessels transfered prepositioned break bulk ammunition into containers for loading onto two containerships. The transload of cargo from converted LMSRs to new construction LMSRs began in December 1998. One additional new construction LMSR (USNS Pomeroy) was uploaded in December 2001. Additionally, the USNS Bob Hope was replaced by the USNS Soderman in February 2003 which made for a "pure fleet" APS Afloat program.

On 30 August 2001 Thomas White, the secretary of the Army, said the Army planned to move pre-positioned material stored at facilities in Germany and Italy to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Army officials could not provide details on the amount and type of material being moved.

On 29 January 2002 the State of the Union labeled Iraq part of the "axis of evil" group. At this point APS planners were sent to Southwest Asia (SWA) and APS Qatar started to ship a brigade set and division base to Kuwait. CEG-Europe also began realigning stocks to theater. On 14 May 2002, the UN Security Council approved more sanctions on trade with Iraq. With these sanctions Inland Petroleum Distribution System (IPDS) containers were shipped from Qatar to Kuwait. A few months later, on 5 July 2002, Iraq rejected the UN request for weapons inspections.

In the same month preposition ship USNS Watkins was downloaded, the Qatar BDE was moved to Kuwait, and Exercise Vigilant Hammer began. Operation Vigilant Hammer I conducted in July 2002, was the first mission to begin download of APS stock into Kuwait. The download of USNS Watkins was intended to be a clear signal to Saddam Hussein of our seriousness. In retrospect, increasing the stockpiles was a clear signal of the approaching conflict. Operation Vigilant Hammer II followed shortly afterwards taking up the remaining storage space at Camp Doha. Future downloads of equipment were transported to and stored in Camp Arifjan, a provisionally established location in Kuwait created to compensate for storage areas at Camp Doha being used to full capacity.

The plan for APS-3 was simple in concept. Sail the vessel to the location where the contingency exists, download it, configure the equipment to unit sets and hand the equipment off to a deploying unit. In original plans of APS-3 operation it was thought that when APS was utilized, equipment would be downloaded, prepared, and handed off to units immediately near the port. However, units arrived later than plans anticipated and storage for equipment was needed. Camp Arifjan was established in October 2002. APS-3 downloaded the USNS Watson in October of 2002 and then several more vessels in December 2002 through February 2003. Camp Arifjan stored and prepared equipment for issue for six of the seven Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off Vessels (LMSRs), two CL V ships, and two sustainment vessels that downloaded into theater. The LMSRs contained a 2x2 BCT and over 100 echelons above division UICs. The CL V ships had 5,000 containers of ammunition and the sustainment vessels had 15 days of supply for a Corps, equaling 3000 containers of CL I, II, IIIp, IV, IX, an VIII supplies.

President Bush signed a congressional resolution allowing the use of military force against Iraq and on 16 October 2002 APS-3 downloaded the USNS Watson. In January 2003 momentum was really gaining and APS-3 downloaded several ships of equipment into theater. A few months later the world witnessed Saddam Hussein's regime fall to US coalition forces, 14 April 2003.

In December 2006, the Army decided to remove equipment and supplies from its APS-3 prepositioned sets stored on ships in order to accelerate the creation of two additional brigade combat teams by April 2008. Army officials determined that using equipment from other APS sets, such as APS-4 and APS-5, to satisfy these equipment requirements was not a viable option because of the risks involved in Northeast Asia and ongoing operations in Southwest Asia. The fiscal year 2007 supplemental APS budget funded the removal of equipment from APS-3. During the spring, the Army downloaded APS-3 afloat equipment sets to support Iraq-bound Army units. This event, in addition to existing shortages in the remaining prepositioned programs, creates a need for close monitoring of the replenishment of equipment and stocks throughout the USPACOM AOR. Under the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model, once the equipment from APS-3 was removed from the ships, the equipment became part of the Army's reset and training pool. Equipment within this pool was to be reset and, accordingly, funded with reset funding. Without clearly identifying APS reconstitution requirements, however, the Army cannot ensure that it can provide sufficient funding and Congress cannot be assured it has the visibility it needs for its decision-making process.

As of September 2009 Army Prepositioned Stocks-3 ships provide afloat prepositioning for the equipment, munitions and supplies to support U.S. Army combat units that would deploy to potential contingency sites. The Army Prepositioned Stocks-3 concept of operations calls for at-sea prepositioning of combat equipment for a 2x2 heavy armored brigade and the 1x2 6th Brigade Afloat aboard eight LMSRs. In addition, other APS-3 ships carry cargo that supports and sustains the brigade, providing items such as water purification units, food and initial combat support equipment. The mix of cargo carried on APS-3 ships makes it possible for an armored brigade to open a theater of operations for follow-on units. The APS-3 comprises mostly large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships, called LMSRs, built to significantly expand the nation's sealift capacity into the 21st century. The LMSRs offset the shortage of militarily useful cargo ships available in the commercial sector - a growing concern as U.S. overseas bases close and American military forces increasingly depend on power projection "Forward ... From the Sea."

The first IBCT afloat was completed at ASLAC in November 2010 and was uploaded on two LMSRs.

In June and September 2011 and September 2012, a sustainment brigade with 45 days of initial supplies was completed and uploaded on three LMSRs. Rounding out the package were two ammunition container ships, holding a combined 30-day package of sustainment ammunition.

The rebuild of the Army Prepositioned Stocks Afloat (APS-3) Army Strategic Flotilla (ASF) was declared complete in late September 2012 when the US Naval Ship Watson was uploaded from Sept. 10-19 at Wharf Alpha, Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and set sail on September 22. Consistent with the APS Strategy 2020, an Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) with motorized augmentation and sustainment supplies consisting of two LMSR ships, a Sustainment Brigade consisting of three LMSRs, a Theater Opening/Port Opening (TO/PO) set aboard one LMSR and two ammunition sustainment vessels make up the APS-3 ASF.


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