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T-AOE(X) Replenishment Ship /
Triple Product Station Ship

The T-AOE(X) was intended to replace the USS Sacramento (AOE-1)-class of fleet auxiliaries that were nearing the ends of their service lives. As its primary function, T-AOE(X) would serve as a high speed triple product ship. The T-AOE(X) would be able to receive ordnance, fuel and stores from the Combat Logistic Force (CLF) shuttle ships and provide these products via underway replenishment (UNREP) to carrier strike group and expeditionary strike group ships. As a secondary function, the T-AOE(X) would serve as a shuttle ship, providing ordnance, fuel and stores to the sea-based forces afloat from either other CLF shuttle ships or bases ashore.

T-AOE(X) ships would be built to commercial standards and would be crewed by Military Sealift Command civilian mariners, augmented by military personnel as required by mission requirements, such as support cargo supply functions. Vertical underway replenishment (VERTREP) operations would be conducted by a Navy Aviation detachment or equivalent contracted commercial helicopters.

The Navy planned an open competition to follow current oilers with the T-AOE(X) Fast Combat Support Ship replacement platform. New PMS 325 ship acquisition projects could include, but were not limited to, Maritime Prepositioning Force Future (MPF(F)), next generation triple product replenishment ship (T-AOE(X)), Landing Craft Utility Replacement (LCU(R)), High Speed Ship (HSS), and a next generation submarine tender.

The Navy planned the development of a next generation triple product replenishment ship to replace the aging AOE-1 Class for underway replenishment ship missions. These AOE-1 Classes decommissioned in FY04-05. The new T-AOE(X) class would provide a next generation of triple product replenishment capabilities for the Carrier Strike Group. This would include the simultaneously delivery of ship petroleum products, ammunition, provisions and stores and redistribute these items.

The initially Navy planned to buy two T-AOE ships in FY-09.

T-AOE(X) would be employed as a triple-product fast logistics support ship serving as a station ship assigned to the Expeditionary Strike Group. It would receive petroleum products, ammunition, provisions and stores and redistribute these items simultaneously to the Carrier Strike Group using both underway replenishment and vertical replenishment with embarked helicopters.

In 1992 N42 developed a mission needs statement (MNS) for an Auxiliary Dry Cargo Carrier that covered both station-ship and shuttle-ship missions. In 2003 N42 asked CNA for an analysis of alternatives for the T-AOE(X). When the T-AOE(X) Integrating Integrated Product Team (IIPT) met to receive approval to enter concept refinement and formally begin the AoA, the outcome was less than optimal. OSD AT&L asked to be briefed further on the history of the program, on how T-AOE(X) fits into the bigger Naval picture, and in short, why the program office was using a 12-year-old MNS to justify a new start program.

N42 asked CNA for a second briefing, telling the "T-AOE(X) story." CNA showed that, since 1992, six major studies had examined the station-ship requirement. All of these studies addressed different conditions, yet all concluded that at least 8 AOEs and/or T-AOEs are needed. The IIPT members seemed pleased, and the sponsor developed a draft initial capabilities document with our results attached. The sponsor hoped this would suffice and the AoA can begin in 2004. This chain of events was another illustration, along with MPF(F), that the AoA process is changing and that CNA was changing with it. In the new system, preparations leading to the AoA may be as important as the AoA itself.

A 2002 study by the fleet suggests two feasible near-term Combat Logistics Force (CLF) alternatives (one with 12 T-AKEs, 18 T-AOs, and four T-AOE#6s and the other with nine T-AKEs, 14 T-AOs, four T-AOE#6s and four T-AOE(X)s and recommends the latter as more flexible. Previous studies have used, among other techniques, steady-state analysis and simulation to analyze the CLF. Descriptive models, such as simulations, do not allow us to determine the full potential of the force, and steady-state analyses can easily miss critical details such as constraints on scheduling that can significantly impact performance.

On July 29, 2004, the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics signed an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) designating the Navy as the lead Department of Defense component for the T-AOE(X) fast combat support ship which was a pre-Major Defense Acquisition Program. The Navy was also given permission to enter into the Concept Refinement Phase of acquisition. Additionally, the Navy was directed to carry out an Analysis of Alternatives for the T-AOE(X) program.

An optimization model prescribed a near-optimal schedule for shuttle ship deliveries to battle groups for a dual MTW scenario. Data adapted from the fleet study included the force supported, the areas of operation, capacities and consumption rates of DFM, JP5, dry stores, and ordnance. To account for transit times precisely, a global sea-route model shows where any shuttle ship would travel to deliver to any battle group. The results suggest how to employ the shuttle ships, including where they should be pre-positioned. These results also allow us to compare various performance measure evaluated for each CLF alternative in an effort to quantify flexibility. In addition, the combatant off-station times resulting from using a T-AOE station ship versus a T-AO and T-AKE acting as a substitute station ship is compared, and for a 26-knot station ship versus a 20-knot station ship.

The concept of the evolving "sea-bases" - no footprint onshore but platform bases on the open seas - would give the Navy unimpeded maneuver space, reduced vulnerability and increased agility and speed. Sea basing is a concept that allows the U.S. to circumvent access limitations and diplomatic entanglements (such as those posed when Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to invade from its soil) and also precludes the necessity of a buildup of large logistical establishments ashore.

From a programmatic perspective, potential major acquisition program beneficiaries of Sea Basing and the At-sea transfer technology include the Maritime Preposition Force Seabase (Future) or MPF (F), the replacement fleet oil tanker or T-AOE(X), the Combat Logistics Force (CLF), the next-generation aircraft carrier (CVN21), the next-generation destroyer (DD(X)), the littoral combatant ship (LCS), and the Navy's high-speed vessel (HSV) programs.

If more capability is required, then there are two basic paths to get there : increase the amount that can be delivered at each replenishment event (volume) or increase the number of replenishment events that can occur (speed). In an ideal world the Navy could have both, but in a constrained environment, tradeoffs must be made. The ill-fated T-AOE(X) program is illustrative. Like the current T-AOE it was intended to replace, the T-AOE(X) combined high speed (26+ knots) with a full line of commodities, providing a highly mobile one-stop-shop for deploying task groups. The estimated $1B price tag for this no compromises design proved too high, and the program was cancelled in 2005. In comparison, the T-AO and T-AKE platforms currently in use have a cost of approximately $500M. Analysis is inconclusive as to whether volume or speed represents the better investment, but as the T-AOE(X) program showed, the Navy cannot afford both. One must come at the expense of the other.

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