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T-AVB 3 Wright

Historically, the most difficult problem facing Marine aviation logistics planners was finding a rapid dedicated means of providing intermediate (I-Level) maintenance capability for forward-deployed aircraft. The mission of the T-AVB it to provide rapid and dedicated sealift for employment of a tailored aviation Intermediate Maintenance Activity (IMA) to support deployment of US Marine Corps fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The majority of the IMA equipment and supplies required to sustain forward deployed Fixed Wing (FW) and Rotary Wing (RW) Aircraft will be delivered via the T-AVB. Without the T-AVB, it would require approximately 140 C-141 lifts to deploy an equivalent I-level capability, to a crisis area. Transport includes up to 210 functional, 59 non-functional and 80 supply/storage vans, possessing self-sustained lift capability for pier-side load/offload. Maximum load of up to 644 maintenance supply/storage vans if none of the vans are in a functional mode.

In response to the urgent need to improve responsiveness and reduce airlift requirements during the critical initial stages of major force deployments, in the mid 1980s the United States Navy procured two (2) Roll-on/Roll-off Cargo Container ships (T-AVBs) to transport intermediate level aviation for support within a contingency area -- the USNS Wright and the USNS Curtiss. In addition, at about the same time, the Marine Corps introduced the Marine Aviation Logistics Support Program (MALSP) to ensure quick response times for crisis situations. MALSP ensured tailored support for a task organized Aviation Combat Element (ACE).

On 12 June 1998 US Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater announced the award of a total of 39 performance-based contracts to 10 American ship-owning and -operating companies to manage 89 ships of the Ready Reserve Force. The total estimated value for the contracts included the expected costs of shipyard work and other maintenance and operational expenses for which the ship managers are reimbursed. Interocean Ugland Management Corp. of Voorhees, NJ was awarded $10,844,615 over 5 years for Wright, Curtiss and Cape Nome.

Following this announcement of contracts to manage RRF ships in 1998, MARAD independently discovered an error in the award process, and rescinded the contracts. It extended existing contracts to make sure the ships remained mission ready. On 04 May 2000 Maritime Administrator Clyde J. Hart Jr. announced the award of 33 contracts, awarded on a competitive basis, to nine American ship owning and operating companies to manage 74 of the Ready Reserve Force ships. American Overseas Marine Corporation of Quincy, MA was awarded $12,214,503 for Wright, Curtiss and Cape Nome.

The T-AVB is a C5-s-78a Seabridge class, commercial, combination Container, Roll On/Roll Off (RO/RO) and Lift On/Lift Off (LO/LO) cargo ship adapted by Military Sealift Command (MSC) for use by the Marine Corps. Both T-AVB ships were acquired as a result of a Marine Corps "Feasibility Study of the Aviation Logistics Support Ship" dated 25 NOV 83. The ships have been modified for use by USMC I-Level aviation maintenance and supply organizations.

The USNS Wright is presently berthed at Baltimore, MD, and the USNS Curtiss is berthed at Port Hueneme, CA. The Curtis supports the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS Cherry Point NC, while the Wright supports the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing MCAS EL Toro CA. The ships are maintained in a five day Reduced Operating Status (ROS-5) by the Maritime Administration (MARAD). The ROS-5 status allows for a transition to full operating status within 120 hours. A civilian commercial US Merchant Marine crew is stationed aboard each ship to monitor equipment conditions and conduct vessel maintenance and repair. When activated, the ships are operated by the Military Sealift Command with civilian manning. During Operation Desert Shield the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing from southern California deployed to the Persian Gulf along with these two specialized aviation logistics support ships.

The primary T-AVB mission is to provide dedicated sealift for movement of a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) to support the rapid deployment of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft units. When T-AVBs are activated, they are under the operational control of MSC. T-AVBs are crewed under an operating contract by the Maritime Administration (MARAD). T-AVBs are activated to participate in annual exercises and deployments as required. Specifically, the MALS supports a designated mix of aircraft included in a specific MAGTF ACE. The majority of facilities used by the MALS when ashore are packaged in 8'X8'X20'-foot containers designated as mobile maintenance facilities (MMFs) which are placed aboard the T-AVB. The MMFs containing operational work centers and ready access supply stores are installed on the main and second decks in tiers of one or two. Access ladders and scaffolding provide routine access to the MMFs by MALS personnel. Other MMFs containing spare parts are stowed below the second deck. The T-AVB administrative loadout is approximately 684 MMFs, while the working loadout is approximately 352.

During transit to the objective area and until moved ashore, MALS personnel operate in the MMFs. An example of a MALS function is the repair of weapons repairable assemblies (WRAs) that are received onboard, repaired, and returned while the T-AVB is within helicopter operating range. The secondary T-AVB mission is to provide for resupply in a conventional container or RO/RO configuration. T-AVB modifications have been configured to retain maximum cargo capacity in the resupply mode. For further details regarding T-AVB operations and load planning, the Aviation Logistics Support Ship (T-AVB) Logistics Planning Manual must be consulted.

In the late 1980's the Marine Corps introduced the Marine Aviation Logistics Support Program (MALSP). MALSP incorporates a flexible "building-block concept," known as Contingency Support Packages (CSPs), that follows a pre-arranged deployment/employment scenario for assembling the right mix of Marines, support equipment, mobile facilities, and spare parts within a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) to support deployed aircraft. The key word is "flexible." Contingency support packages can be rapidly configured to support the contingency aircraft mix and marshaled for movement. CSPs are comprised of common and peculiar IMA and Supply support for the various deploying aircraft. Fly In Support Packages (FISPs)(30 days of support) are flown into the operational theater as part of the Fly-In Echelon (FIE). The balance/majority of the Marine Air/Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander's tailored aviation logistics support arrives in theater aboard the T-AVB.

These converted ships provide the capability to carry the vans and equipment of a Marine Corps aviation intermediate maintenance activity and transport them to the desired theatre of operation. They have both a roll-on/roll-off and self-sustaining containership configuration which will permit them to offload both alongside and offshore. After the aviation equipment is offloaded, the ships have the capability to carry breakbulk, container and roll-on/roll-off cargo.

Three basic modes of operation exist for the T-AVB; Operational Mode,Transport Mode and Combination Mode.

  • Operational Mode: Using the T-AVB in operational mode, mobile facilities and personnel of the aircraft intermediate maintenance and supply departments are embarked aboard the T-AVB to provide selected, sea based, expeditionary aviation logistic support to a MAGTF ACE commander. In this mode, up to 300 mobile facilities and 52 access modules can be loaded on the T-AVB; 186 of which may be fully powered and operational. Operational mode is the primary mode of operation for the T-AVB.
  • Transport Mode: Using the T-AVB in transport mode, mobile facilities and personnel of the aircraft intermediate maintenance and supply departments are embarked aboard the T-AVB to provide maximum, land based expeditionary aviation logistic support to the MAGTF ACE commander, when off loaded ashore. In this mode, up to 684 mobile facilities can be loaded aboard the T-AVB. However, few of these mobile facilities may be powered and operational until off loaded and complexed ashore.
  • Combination Mode: Using the T-AVB in combination mode, mobile facilities and personnel of the aircraft intermediate maintenance and supply departments are embarked aboard the T-AVB to provide selected seabased and maximum land based, expeditionary aviation logistic support to the MAGTF ACE commander, simultaneously. In this mode, the number of mobile facilities that can be loaded on the T-AVB and the number that can be powered and operational will depend on the desired support concept required by the MAGTF ACE commander.

Berthing aboard the T-AVB is provided for: 41 crew members, 300 embarked troops, with an additional 25 berthing spaces for officers and SNCOs. Material Handling Equipment (MHE) aboard the ship includes: (11) ship booms (ten 30 ton and one 70 ton), (1) diesel powered front-loading forklift (15,500 lb. max. capacity) for MFs, (1) diesel powered side-loading forklift (16,500 lb. max. capacity) for MFs, (3) 6000lb electric forklifts for moving loose gear/pallets.

A Helicopter Platform is located on the upper level over Main deck Hatches number 1 and 2 between Frames 35 and 61. The platform is capable of accommodating up to and including a CH-53E helicopter in landing, takeoff and for emergency parking in storm conditions. The purpose of the Helo deck is to handle the transfer of personnel and cargo.

On 16 June 2003, the officers and crew of the SS Wright received the Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal in a shipboard ceremony. The Wright served in the combat zone during Operations Enduring Freedom/ Iraqi Freedom and has just returned from the Middle East. The Wright, an Aviation Logistics Support vessel, carried the helicopter platform, repair shop, and equipment for helicopters, fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, plus 300 Marines. The officers and crew of the SS Wright are all civilian merchant mariners who volunteered to go into the war zone. General John W. Handy, Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, presented the medals.



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