Despite their title, destroyer tenders service a variety of ships besides destroyers. Destroyer tenders provide a mobile base and intermediate level maintenance support facilities for destroyers, cruisers and frigates. Yellowstone was the first destroyer tender of its type to be equipped with a destroyer refueling rig capable of sending refueling probes to ships. This new technology made it possible to refuel ships from other nations.
The Yellowstone, Gompers and Dixie class destroyer tenders can provide battle damage repair, maintenance and logistics support to ships at anchor or moored to a pier, in a wartime environment. The Gompers class can accommodate ships up to and including the highly complex nuclear-powered missile cruisers. The crews are formed mainly of technicians and repair crews. These Destroyer Tenders have a helicopter platform and hangar, and are equipped with two 30 ton and two 6 ton cranes. They can provide simultaneous services to as many as five ships moored along side.
These ships, so vital to fleet operations, ranged in age from the Dixie class ship Prairie (AD 15), commissioned in 1940, to the new Shenandoah (AD 44), commissioned in late 1983. Because of the advent of nuclear power and the phenomenal advancement in electronics and weaponry, AD capabilities have had to be vastly increased. The Gompers and Yellowstone classes are the first of post-World War II design; however, more than 15 years elapsed between the launching of the second of the Gompers class, Puget Sound (AD 38), and Yellowstone (AD 41).
The mission of AD-41 Yellowstone class is to provide mobile, intermediate level maintenance support facilities, primarily for DD-963 class destroyers, CGN class cruisers and FFG-7 frigates and also for other frigates, destroyers and cruisers. They are capable of supporting all other surface ship types, including aircraft carriers, amphibious and auxiliary ships, and patrol and support craft. Typical customer ships varied in size and characteristics, ranging from patrol ships of 150 feet in length, displacing 235 tons and armed with guns and missiles to nuclear-propelled cruisers 600 feet in length, displacing 10,000 tons, carrying guided missiles and fitted with sophisticated electronic equipment.
This support includes shops, material and technical facilities for industrial repairs which do not require the level of support available at a shipyard. The ships also provide logistic support, including repair parts; weapons and munitions, such as missiles, torpedoes and gun ammunition and personnel support and services, such as medical, dental and messing facilities for personnel of customer ships. Berthing, administrative and training facilities for a limited numberof personnel from ships undergoing repair are provided.
Because the machinery of ships alongside for services will be under repair, the ships are fitted with extra electrical generators, water distilling capacity, and transfer facilities for providing electrical, boiler feed and fresh water, and other services to ships alongside. Ships of this class are fitted with large side doors to permit easy access from ships alongside directly to the shops. several work boats and other small craft are carried to transfer material and personnel to nearby ships.
Equipped with large cranes for handling antennas, torpedoes, machinery, provisions, small boats, and weapons, these vessels have tremendous capability for moving heavy and bulky material quickly and safely. Beyond ship repair and support capabilities, they are capable of providing all of the facilities and services to accommodate a crew of 1595 officers and enlisted personnel, including accommodations and other facilities for a group or squadron commander and his supporting staff.
During the Gulf War repair ships like the destroyer tenders USS Yellowstone (AD 41), USS Acadia (AD 42) and USS Cape Cod (AD 43) were deployed to fulfill another logistic requirement of sustained naval presence. Based in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Yellowstone provided critical repair and rearming capability to the fleet. During seven months on station Yellowstone alone completed more than 10,000 repair jobs on 30 U.S. and allied ships. The Navy men and women serving aboard tenders and other repair ships provided a wide variety of services simultaneously to as many as flve ships moored alongside or nearby.
In May 1994 USS Yellowstone (AD-41) returned to homeport, Norfolk, VA. Finishing up a work-intensive Mediterranean deployment, USS Yellowstone proved its reliability to the fleet through the many tasks it accomplishes, living up to its nickname, "Old Faithful". Dedicating more than 119,088 manhours throughout its four-month deployment, USS Yellowstone crewmembers completed more than 3,400 jobs through 17 major alongside repair availabilities on ships and 45 fly-away teams.
As part of the Navy's overall effort to conserve operating resources, the destroyer tender USS Yellowstone (AD 41) did not deploy to the Mediterranean Sea on 25 May 1995 as previously scheduled. Yellowstone was maintained in a surge status and served as the source of assist teams available to cover emergent repair requirements. Repairs to forward-deployed ships were supported by in-theater resources and Continental United States (CONUS)-based flyaway teams. The return from deployment of the Norfolk-based destroyer tender USS Shenandoah (AD 44) on 17 May 1995 was not affected. Yellowstone was scheduled to relieve Shenandoah.
As the Navy approached a reduced level of tenders to service ships and submarines of all types, policy-makers were studying the continued feasibility of routinely deploying CONUS-based tenders at rotating, back-to-back intervals. The Navy was looking at the possibility of deploying tenders, as required, for specific missions and relying more routinely on other resources for ship repairs. Those resources may include mobile repair teams, deployed battle group repair capabilities, contract maintenance assets overseas and the forward-based tender USS Simon Lake (AS 33) at La Maddalena, Italy.
USS Cape Cod (AD 43) was decommissioned at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., on 29 September 1995. The destroyer tender ended 13 years of active naval service. Cape Cod provided materials and mobile facilities for ships requiring service or repair, in port or at sea. Although capable of servicing any ship in the fleet, Cape Cod was specially designed to assist the DD-963 class destroyers, CGN class cruisers and FFG-7 class frigates. It also had special repair facilities to support ships with nuclear propulsion plants. USS Yellowstone (AD 41) was decommissioned on 31 January 1996, at Norfolk. Following the decommissioning ceremony, Yellowstone was placed in a stand-by status at the Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia.
As of October 1998 two Yellowstone (AD 41)-class destroyer tenders were in reduced operating status [ROS], partially crewed by Naval Reservists. The Military Sealift Command is responsible for lay berthing, maintaining, and operating the ships. Approximately 2,000 Reservists filled billets in the repair, communications, supply (excluding food service), and medical/dental departments. Mobilization training for these Reservists takes place at Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activities, Navy medical and dental facilities, and on board Active tenders.
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