Military


AOE 6 Supply
Fast Combat Support Ship

The fast combat support ship (AOE) is the Navy's largest combat logistics ship. The AOE has the speed and armament to keep up with the carrier battle groups. The AOE-6 class is slightly smaller than the AOE-1 class, and is the first auxiliary to have gas turbine propulsion. It also uses reversing reduction gear (RRG) for astern and maneuvering operations vice controllable pitch propellers as found on most gas turbine ships. It rapidly replenishes Navy task forces and can carry more than 177,000 barrels of oil, 2,150 tons of ammunition, 500 tons of dry stores and 250 tons of refrigerated stores. It receives petroleum products, ammunition and stores from shuttle ships and redistributes these items simultaneously to carrier battle group ships. This reduces the vulnerability of serviced ships by reducing alongside time.

The SUPPLY-class is unique among all other navy ships in the world, in that it is the first ship built to extremely rigid shock, noise, and vibration standards. The AOE 6 class ships, which are built to a MIL-SPEC combatant standards design, and have survivability features (i.e., shock, blast, etc.) equivalent to other ships in the CVBG, significantly extends the endurance of the CVBG for combat operations. SUPPLY is also the world's largest gas turbine- (jet engine) powered ship. She can easily cruise for sustained periods at battle group speeds, replenishing and rearming the entire battle force.

The AOE 6 class Reversing Reduction Gears (RRGs) is a transmission speed reducer and propulsive thrust reversing device. The RRG has been previously designed, manufactured, and tested as a suitable alternative to controllable pitch propellers (CPPs) and results in increased overall propulsion plant efficiency. SUPPLY is the first ship in the US Navy to employ the RRG for astern and maneuvering operation. The AOE 6 class RRG utilizes a newly designed SSS Clutch and a hydraulic Franco-Tosi Reversing Converter Coupling (RCC). The AOE 6 class RRG is the first Navy gear set to use the RCC. The AOE RRG is the largest hardened and ground gear that has been manufactured for a US Navy ship. There are several differences between the erection of AOE 10's RRG and the three previous AOEs. The differences began at the factory with some modifications made by Cincinnati Gear (the gear manufacturer).

SUPPLY can replenish the other ships of the battle group by two methods. Some ships can maneuver alongside and receive fuel, stores, ammunition, food and personnel through Connected Replenishment (CONREP). Other ships can receive the same products (except fuel) through helicopter delivery (Vertical Replishment (VERTREP)). SUPPLY can replenish up to four warships simultaneously, while carrying out its self-defense, electronic surveillance, and battle group command and communication functions.

SUPPLY requires fewer crew members than other ships of similar size. The extensive automation and state-of-the-art engineering will allow the crew "to do more with less." Berthing, living, messing, recreation and office spaces are provided for 40 Officers, 36 CPOs and 591 enlisted personnel. Additional features include leisure and community facilities, medical and dental spaces, barber shop, ship's store, snack bar, laundry and dry cleaning facilities, workshops, laboratories and test areas.

NASSCO built these ships utilizing an efficient modular construction technique. Separate sections of the ship were built, with piping sections, ventilation ducting and shipboard hardware, as well as major machinery items, such as main propulsion equipment, generators, and electrical panels, installed. These pre-outfitted sections were then brought together to form a complete hull. As a result of this construction technique, the ships were nearly 50 percent complete when launched. The next four years were spent completing the electrical wiring, plumbing and ventilation systems, equipment and hardware installation. During the final phases of construction, the ships went through a series of dockside and sea trials to demonstrate its capabilities, and to ensure product quality.

Congress appropriated the funds for the lead ship of the AOE 6 (Supply class) in 1987. The AOE 6 contract design was completed in February of 1986, and steel fabrication work for SUPPLY began on 23 June 1988 with the official keel-laying conducted on 24 February 1989. SUPPLY was commissioned 26 February 1994 at Naval Air Station, North Island in San Diego, California. The AOE-7 contract design was completed in February of 1986 and steel fabrication work for RAINIER began on August 16, 1989 with the official keel laying conducted on May 31, 1990.

As part of the March 1991 supplemental appropriation bill, the House recommended a provision (section 205) transferring $237,000,000 from the AOE program funded in 1991 to other AOE ships funded in prior years for potential cost overruns. The House report noted that no claims have been agreed upon, but directed the Navy to proceed expeditiously to resolve this matter and complete the ships. The Senate provided no funds because there had no determination of total government liability. Even though govenment liability was estimated at $29,300,000, the Secretary of the Navy supported the transfer as proposed by the House in order that the Navy may proceed expeditiously to complete the ships. The conferees agreed with the provision of the House, noting the Secretary's support. The conferees were concerned that providing funding in advance of any known requirement could be interpreted as a demonstration of congressional intent that this amount represents the government's liability. The conferees emphatically rejected such an interpretation. Further, in order to assure a proper accounting of the government's liability, the conferees directed the General Accounting Office to monitor the resolution of claims in this instance. The Navy was directed not to obligate any of these funds for payment of claims until each specific obligation was determined by GAO to be an appropriate cost to the government.

The 1992 Defense Budget Rescission Conference Report recommended rescissions of $300 million from the AOE Fast Combat Supply Ship. The AOE ship was on deferral by the Secretary of Defense. The agreement left $200 million in the program which was available to be obligated for advance procurement of long-lead material, equipment, and engineering services for the AOE-10. In 1993 the Congress agreed to provide $300,000,000 for the AOE program, as proposed by the House. The amount provided, combined with $200,000,000 of fiscal year 1992 funds for this program, provided sufficient resources to allow for an expeditious award of the AOE-10 ship construction contract.

The fast combat support ship BRIDGE (AOE 10) was christened on 28 March 1998 at National Steel and Shipbuilding in San Diego. The ship is being named for Commodore Horatio Bridge, first leader of the precursor to today's Supply Corps. BRIDGE, the last of four fast combat support ships authorized by Congress, was commissioned on 05 August 1998.

Prior to the finalization of the concept for the ADC(X) Auxiliary Dry Cargo Carrier construction of three modified versions of the AOE 6 Supply class ships was slated to begin in 2003, but these plans appear to have been shelved.

As of October 1994, self-defense configurations for the combined AOE 1/6 class included the MK 23 target acquisition system and the SLQ-32 electronic warfare system. Control functions were performed manually. Engagement elements included NATO Sea Sparrow Missile system, the Phalanx Block 0 or 1, and the MK 36 decoy launching system. This defense configuration produced low capability against all threat requirements. With the exception of minor technical changes, Navy staff has made no ship self-defense improvements to either AOE ship class since October 1994.

Since at least 1997, the Navy has been considering the possibility of transferring its AOE 6 ship class to the Military Sealift Command. As of mid-2000, no ship self-defense upgrades were being planned or recommended.

Supply-class ships are part of MSC's Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force. The Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force began in 1972 with the transfer of the fleet oiler Taluga to MSC after a series of tests showed civilian crews could operate the Navy's fleet support ships more efficiently than Navy sailors. The impressive cost savings resulting from the use of MSC civilian crews continues to grow each year as Military Sealift Command assumes more of the Navy's combat logistics role.

Supply was decommissioned on 13 July 2001 and was transferred to Military Sealift Command where she was placed back in service as a "United States Naval Ship." Her sister ship Arctic (AOE 8) was transferred to MSC in June 2002, and Rainier (AOE 7) transferred in August 2003. USS Bridge (AOE 10) transfered to MSC in June 2004. When USS Bridge transfered to MSC, NSC saved the Navy more than $76 million annually in overall costs and returned almost 2,000 Sailor billets to the fleet.



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