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Combat Prepositioning Ships
Army Prepositioned Afloat

Under the Army Strategic Mobility Program [ASMP] umbrella, the Army has chosen to expand its afloat prepositioning program to accommodate not only the Mobility Requirements Study [MRS] directed afloat combat brigade, but also common equipment and supplies that facilitate rapid deployment. Included in the afloat prepositioning package are transportation and port opening equipment that are critical to reception, staging, off-loading and onward movement of deploying units.

The APS-3, Army Prepositioned Afloat (APA) Program, is a direct result of the Army Strategic Mobility Program (ASMP). The ASMP was initiated to address the conclusions of the Mobility Requirements Study (MRS). The MRS concluded that the Army can only increase its deployability through an expanded investment of sealift and airlift, prepositioning, and transportation infrastructure.

APA provides the combatant CINCs with deployment flexibility and increased capability to respond to a crisis or contingency with a credible force. The purpose of a prepositioned (PREPO) Afloat operation is to project a heavy force early in the crisis capable of complimenting other early arriving forces; to rapidly reinforce a lodgment established by Army early entry forces; to protect key objectives (port, airfield, etc.); and to be prepared to conduct subsequent operations across the range of military operations.

APA operations range from employment of one ship in support of a humanitarian assistance mission to the employment of all APA vessels required to support the CINC's campaign plan. Equipment prepositioned afloat has universal utility for multiple CINCs. It carries critical weapons systems, equipment, and supplies common to all theaters. It is a force package that is mobile and can be quickly repositioned in response to a crisis anywhere in the world.

APA allows the early deployment of an Army heavy brigade force to support the needs of CINCs in order to minimize the initial requirement for the strategic lift. To do this, the brigade must arrive in the theater of operations and be combat effective by C+15. In view of global operations, APA must provide the flexibility to conduct operations across the range of military operations.

AWR-3 ships carry a US Army Brigade Afloat along with Combat Service Support and Humanitarian Assistance cargo. In late 1995 the Defense Department ordered to the Persian Gulf 13 ships from its "prepo afloat" fleet, based at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam and Saipan in the Pacific. Collectively, these roll-on, roll-off ships carry enough cargo to equip a large armored force and its combat support and combat service support units.

While eight LMSRs were being refurbished or built and two container ships were being refurbished, seven ships were called up from the Ready Reserve fleet to support the Army Pre-Positioned Afloat Fleet. In its end state, the APA fleet would comprise 16 ships: 8 LMSRs, 3 LASHs, 2 containers, 2 HLPSs, and 1 auxiliary crane ship. The LMSR provides the ability to move equipment into the area faster than was initially available and the space to configure the loads to ease upload, maintenance, and discharge.

As of late 1996 there were 12 Army PREPO ships deployed to USCINCPAC AOR as part of the Afloat Prepositioning Force (APF). These ships carry Army War Reserve Stocks No. 3 (AWR-3) cargo and consisted of seven RO/ROs carrying Army unit equipment. One Auxiliary Crane Ship (ACS), three LASH ships carrying ammunition, rations, and other non-ammunition cargo, and one Flo-Flo/Semisubmersible ship which carries Army port support equipment. In early 1997 this force was augmented by Strong Virginian, a lift-on/lift-off, multipurpose vessel that has a large 600-ton capacity cargo boom that allows it to lift extraordinarily heavy cargos. The ship carries small vessels such as utility landing craft and mechanized landing craft.

Eventually constructed or converted T-AKR Large Medium Speed RO/ROs (LMSR) replaced the RRF ships supporting the APA program. In fiscal year 1999, two Watson-class LMSRs were delivered to MSC - USNS Sisler on 01 December 1998, and USNS Dahl on 13 July 1999. USNS Bob Hope, the first ship in its class, was delivered on 18 November 1998. Bob Hope and Sisler received their primary loads in Antwerp, Belgium, and deployed. Dahl loaded in Charleston and Antwerp in early 2000.

At the end of fiscal year 1999, the CPS fleet consisted of 14 ships: three conversion LMSRs, three new LMSRs, two container ships, one heavy-lift ship, one float-on/float-off ship, one crane ship activated from the Ready Reserve Force and three ammunition LASH barge ships.

The Combat Prepositioning Ships project continued to expand in FY 2000, working toward a goal of two million square feet of prepositioning capacity called for in the 1992 Mobility Requirements Study. The main component of the Combat Prepositioning Ships program comprises the equipment and supplies needed to support a U.S. Army 2x2 heavy brigade of up to 6,000 personnel for up to 15 days. This gear is carried primarily on large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships. Cargoes aboard Combat Prepositioning Ships vessels also include sustainment supplies for contingency units arriving in the first 38 days of an operation.

At the end of FY 2000, the Combat Prepositioning Ships fleet consisted of 14 ships: one conversion LMSR, five new LMSRs, two container ships, one heavy-lift ship, one float-on/float-off ship, one crane ship activated from the Ready Reserve Force and three ammunition LASH barge ships. The CPS fleet included 16 ships by 2001.

  • SS Green Harbour, SS Green Valley and MV Jeb Stuart are Lighter Aboard Ship (LASH) vessels stationed at the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia. LASH stands for lighter aboard ship. These ships carry ammunition barges that are off-loaded by the ship's crane and towed ashore by small tugs that are part of the LASH ship's deck cargo. The three LASH ships were replaced by two container ships [the M/V Innovation and the M/V Newark Bay] in FY 2001.
  • In 2000 Maersk was awarded a five-year MSC charter for the operation of two ships to carry ammunition as part of the prepositioned force. The new Military Sealift Command (MSC) contract awarded to Maersk Lines, converted two Maersk Lines ships for pre-positioning duty. The M/V Newark Bay and the M/V Innovation became two of the largest container ships in the fleet. Those ships, the Newark Bay and OOCL Innovation, were delivered in February 2001.
  • MV American Cormorant, SS Gopher State and MV Strong Virginian are the three ships containing the Army's Port Opening Package.
  • MV Sp5 Eric G Gibson and MV Ltc Calvin P Titus are two RO-RO/container ships under contract to MSC to support the Army's Prepositioning Program. They carry sustainment cargo, including rations, lubricants, medical supplies, repair parts and chemical defense equipment. As of January 2001 MV LTC Calvin P. Titus and MV SP5 Eric G. Gibson were located in Saipan. Agreements between the HQDA DCS, G-3, G-4, and CG, AMC resulted in the decision to turn-in the two sustainment ships, MV Titus and MV Gibson, ending the current lease one year early. Newer, more capable ships had been requested from MSC in the 2004 time frame.

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