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T-AFS 8 Sirius Combat Stores Ship

These ships formerly were Royal Navy replenishment ships [ex-British Lyness Class], acquired by the Navy because of the increased logistics demands necessitated by maintaining two carrier battle groups in the Indian Ocean during the Iranian hostage crisis. Built in England in 1965 and 1966, they were extensively modernized with improved communications and underway-replacement facilities. USNS Sirius (T-AFS 8) was transferred from the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary to MSC on Jan. 18, 1981; USNS Spica (T-AFS 9) on Nov. 5, 1981; and USNS Saturn (T-AFS 10) on Dec. 13, 1983. They are part of the Navy Combat Logistics Force, and conduct underway and vertical replenishment in support of operating forces by simultaneously providing refrigerated stores, dry provisions, technical and aviation spares, general stores, fleet freight, mail, personnel and other items from five stations and utilizing two H-46 helicopters assigned per ship.

These ships conduct underway replenishment in support of operating forces by simultaneously providing refrigerated stores, dry provisions, technical (including aviation) spares, general stores, fleet freight, mail, personnel and other items from five stations (two starboard and three port) for periods normally not to exceed thirty-two hours per week. UNREP hours are considered to commence with "first line over" and terminate with "last line clear" . They conduct vertical replenishment in support of operating forces by providing refrigerated stores, dry provisions, technical (including aviation) spares, general stores, fleet freight, personnel, mail and other items with helicopters from other units or temporarily assigned for periods normally not to exceed 32 hours per week. This includes the time from the setting of flight quarters to securing from flight quarters.

MSC's combat stores ships provided logistical support to deployed carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups, in addition to resupplying several U.S. embassies. During 1999 USNS Saturn and USNS Sirius supported customers from the USS Wasp and USS Saipan battle groups and NATO units in the Mediterranean.

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command combat stores ship USNS Sirius (T-AFS 8) became the Texas Maritime Academy's new training ship 01 July 2005. USNS Sirius, which has been supplying U.S. Navy ships at sea since 1981, was stricken from the Navy register and transferred to the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD). MARAD provides state maritime academies with training ships to foster the development of a robust U.S. Merchant Marine capable of carrying U.S. waterborne commerce and serving as a naval auxiliary in times of war or during national emergencies. Providing training ships to schools supports the mariner licensing programs in a very concrete way," said Erhard Koehler, project officer for the MARAD training school ship program. Today, roughly 50 percent of licensed mariners come from state maritime schools.

Texas Maritime Academy, one of six state maritime academies in the United States, prepares undergraduate students for licensing as officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine. In addition to being a floating campus during summer cruises, the school's training ship provides additional classroom, meeting and training space during the school year. This ship will be an excellent training platform for the cadets and will give the program room to expand and foster an increased enrollment in the Maritime Corps of Cadets. Sirius will afford opportunities for use beyond cadet training, and will be the flagship of all the Maritime Academies."

For over 25 years, the combat stores ship had provided underway replenishment of supplies such as food, dry provisions, repair parts and mail to U.S. Navy ships at sea. Sirius was one of 120 ships operated around the world daily by MSC, the largest single employer of U.S. merchant mariners. MSC ships replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, chart ocean bottoms, conduct undersea surveillance, preposition combat cargo at sea and move equipment and supplies for the U.S. military.

Their durable construction ensured that the ships were able to give decades of service to MSC in addition to their long careers in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, where they participated in events such as the British strategic withdrawal from east of Suez and the Falklands campaign. These ships supported dozens of US Navy combatant deployments and participated in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

As they plied the seven seas, the single- screw ships were propelled by reliable Sulzer diesel engines with a fuel efficiency that is the envy of shipping executives throughout the world. The ships were modernized throughout their MSC careers but retained many unique features, such as wooden deck sheathing, a pub-like bar in the officers' lounge and bathtubs in several staterooms.

They've been Navy workhorses since the 1980s, but by 2007 Military Sealift Command's veteran combat stores ships USNS Saturn and USNS Spica had completed their final underway replenishment missions, and a new generation of underway replenishment ships are joining the fleet. Two of an expected 11 civil service crewed Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition ships were delivered to MSC since June 2006 and May 2007 and were replacing Saturn, Spica and other underway replenishment ships that have completed or are nearing the end of their service lives. The civil-service-crewed Saturn crossed paths with her sister ship, Spica, in the Red Sea on 14 February 2007, marking the final chapter in a long history of cargo and fuel transfers. Saturn expected to return to the United States in May 2007, and was scheduled to make one final deployment before being deactivated in 2009.

The Military Sealift Command acquired a new class of combat logistics ships, hull designator T-AKE, named the Lewis and Clark class. The T-AKE auxiliary dry cargo carrier acquisition program consisted of 12 ships with a budget of approximately $4 billion. The T-AKE replaced the existing T-AE 26-class of ammunition ships and the T-AFS 1 and 8-classes of combat stores ships. Also, when a T-AKE operates with a T-AO 187-class oiler, it can also replace the AOE 1-class fast combat stores ship.

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