AOE Fast Combat Support Multi-Product Station Ship
Navy fleet units are capable of remaining at sea for prolonged periods of time. Logistics support for fleet units is received by means of underway replenishment (UNREP). The transfer of liquid and/or solid cargo between two ships underway is an UNREP. Ships of the combat logistics force (CLF) are equipped to replenish combatants underway for sustained periods of time. UNREP sustains a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) anywhere, anytime for as long as needed. A Carrier Strike Group normally deploys with 4-5 escort ships for a six month duration.
As part of the CSG, a CLF multi-product replenishment ship keeps the carrier and escorts stocked with fuel, ammunition/ordnance, consumable stores, and spare parts. This CLF multi-product ship serves as a "station ship" for the CSG. The CSG station ship is capable of delivering ammunition and stores through vertical replenishment or by cargo transfer stations, while simultaneously transferring fuel. When the CSG station ship needs replenishment, CLF "shuttle ships", which are not organic parts of the CSG, bring supplies from forward logistic bases (FLBs) to the CVBG station ship. CLF shuttle ships are single product ships, such as fleet oilier ships (T-AO), ammunition ships (T-AE), and combat stores ships (T-AFS). 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 Navy plans to provide a multi-product station ship for every carrier battle group. In the event that a CLF multi-product station ship is not available for a CVBG, a T-AO and T-AE both will normally serve as station ships for the CSG. With the CSG station ship providing logistic support for the CSG, combatant escort ships can maintain station in a combat role, while minimizing time awaiting supplies.
Similarly, UNREP of the ESG allows the ESG ships to remain on station and continue to support Marine forces operating ashore. Even if operations ashore do not exceed 15 days, the ESG ships will need replenishment in certain classes of supply. CLF shuttle ships that normally service a CSG may need to reconfigure their cargo spaces to carry required levels of fuel, ammunition and stores needed for Marine units. Once shuttle ships replenish the ESG ships, the ESG ships can deliver fuel and cargo ashore with available transportation assets. CLF ships are not capable of delivering supplies ashore.
Operation of the Supply-class ships by the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) saves the strike groups time since they can receive all of the fuel, cargo and ammunition needed from one ship. Fewer ships in operation for one mission reduce the cost to taxpayers, as well. In the past, two ships - an oiler and either a combat stores ship or an ammunition ship - were needed to fulfill the same mission as a single Supply-class ship. With a top speed of 29 knots, these ships have little difficulty keeping pace with the other ships.
During a single deployment, a single Supply-class ship may provide more than 50 million gallons of fuel for a strike group. That amount of fuel would fill 100 Olympic-size swimming pools. The ship would also transfer more than 10 million pounds of food, ammunition, mail and various dry cargo to re-supply other ships. The on-board Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) Detachment performs vertical replenishments to lift cargo to the other ships in the strike group.
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