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ARAPAHO Army Pre-positioned Sustainment Maintenance Facility

In the Arapaho program, the Naval Air Systems Command developed a portable, modularized aviation facility intended for installation aboard container ships. It can be installed in less than twenty-four hours and included all components necessary for V/STOL aircraft operations: flight deck, hangar, fuel, and crew accommodations. It was estimated to cost less than $20 million per set.

ARAPAHO was a research and development project to demonstrate the feasibility of equipping merchant ships with emergency aviation support in wartime and of operating ASW helicopters and other combatant aircraft from these vessels. ARAPAHO at-sea testing was completed 07 October 1982 at the Norfolk International Terminal, Norfolk, Va., when the 18,000-ton container ship Export Leader - configured with a portable modular aviation facility - returned to port after having logged 178 day and 45 night helicopter landings.

The history of the floating maintenance facility goes back to World War II. There was a big fight between the Army Air Force and the Navy over the need for a floating aircraft repair facility. After a great deal of debating among themselves, they came up with three ships. These ships were used in the Pacific when the Americans were island hopping. Before troops could get a facility ashore, they were going to another island. So they put these repair facilities aboard these small ships that were converted for it and they would island hop with the invasion force and were very successful.

After the end of World War II, there was no need for them and they were all dismantled and done away with because no one saw the need for that type of thing in the future. In Korea, there was not a need for them; or if there was, it had such a low priority that no one ever resurrected the concept. In the early 1960s the AV-5 Albemarle, a WWII seaplane tender, was taken out of the James River Fleet off of Fort Eustis and taken down to Charleston. She was converted and renamed ARVH-1 Corpus Christi Bay [ARVH = Aircraft Repair Ship, Helicopter].

Then there was a plan in the late 1960s and early 1970s for a floating aircraft maintenance facility which would have consisted of a small aircraft carrier [an escort carrier] with a hanger built on the flight deck. That was considered to be cost prohibitive at the time and the idea was dropped.

By the mid-1980s there was a plan to resurrect this capability with the project Arapaho, building a modular facility aboard a container ship. The advantage of the Arapaho over the floating aircraft maintenance facility such as the Corpus Christi Bay is that it could be taken off the ship, moved shore, and set up as a complete self-sustaining facility to do Aviation Unit Maintenance (AVUM), Aviation Intermediate Maintenance (AVIM), and selected depot work.

The ability to support the planned force development in all of its potential roles was essential to accomplishment of the Army's missions under the National Security and National Military Strategies. During 1992 the Army took several steps to improve its ability to support its forces in combat and in operations other than war. These covered a wide spectrum of logistical issues such as war reserves; repair parts; tactical water; petroleum, oil, and lubricants; and the industrial base. In the process, the Army leadership had to balance considerations of force structure design, mobility, and personnel end strength with the available resources to properly sustain its forces.

To provide nondivisional Aviation Intermediate Maintenance (AVIM) and limited depot support in an operational area, the Army established its Pre-positioned Sustainment Maintenance Facility (ARAPAHO) program. Operating as either a sea-based or land-based facility, ARAPAHO consisted of a designated nondivisional AVIM unit's personnel with equipment installed in shelters. Logisticians designed the unit for loading on board a C-5 Seawitch class or larger container ship within twenty-four to thirty-six hours of receiving movement orders, and they envisioned deployment at sea within six days. The unit can use on-board Operational Ready Float (ORF) and Forward Repair Activities (FRA) and will use extended prescribed load list/authorized stockage list (PLL/ASL). ARAPAHO's ability to deploy rapidly would hopefully save forces from waiting sixty days for a ground-based AVIM unit. As a self-transportable unit, ARAPAHO can also quickly redeploy after completing its initial mission.

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