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AOR-X Type 898 Fast Combat Support Ship

A new breakthrough of Chinese naval shipbuilding - the lead ship (name yet unknown putative number "956"??) was launched on 15 December 2015 and left the factory for sea trials on 19 December 2016. The PLA Navy ship Type 898 large complex supply ship was built in Guangzhou shipyard of China Shipbuilding State Corporation (CSSC). It is reported that now this company is building a second ship of Project 898.

The integrated logistics ship of project 898 is probably the world's largest ship of this type, having an estimated total displacement of 55,000 tons, a length of 239.5 meters and a beam 30.5 m. The US Navy's Military Sealift Command has three (one was decommissioned in 2014) supply type integrated supply ship have a total displacement of about 50,000 tons and maximum length 229.8 m. Earlier, the US Navy has four ships of complex supply type Sacramento (written off in 2004-2005), which had a total displacement of 53,000 tons and 242.3 meters length.

China since 2008 began to develop large-scale comprehensive supply ship and rapid combat support ship. This is where things become confusing. In the US Navy "station ships" conduct underway replenishment of combat forces, while "shuttle ships" bring supplies from forward logistic bases to restock the station ships. It seems that the Chinese are following this model. The new 40,000-ton Type 901 "comprehensive supply ship" - a "shuttle ship" with Chinese charateristics - started construction in 2013, and a faster 50,000-ton Type 898 "fast combat support ship" - a "station ship" with Chinese charateristics - also started construction in 2014 to 2015. It is reported that China's new generation of large-scale comprehensive supply ship and fast combat support ship with a new power system, equipped with China's own development of a new generation of integrated supply system, will provide a comprehensive combat capability comparable with the US military.

The existence of two similar though distinct types of ships has confused observers, and it is not always clear which type of ship is under discussion. Some observers have applied the Type 901 nomeclature to the "fast combat support ship" ["station ship"], but this appears to be in error.

The two-level ships can be used as a one-stop logistics center for aircraft carrier formations, capable of receiving, storing, delivering fuel, ammunition, dry goods and other supplies, with the ability to receive directly from the base and re-supply from the ship. It is said that the large-scale comprehensive supply ship will play the role of large-scale oil tanker and comprehensive supply vessel in our Navy. The rapid combat support ship is mainly for aircraft carrier battle group service. In the next few years, with the new generation of large-scale comprehensive supply ship and fast combat support ships have been serving, China's offshore combat capability will see an unprecedented increase.

Background

Escort operations in the Gulf of Aden trained the Chinese navy's capabilities far out at sea, but also exposed some problems. The lack of large-scale integrated supply ship is one of them. A blue-water navy, ocean-going navy, there must be competent service support. At present, the Chinese navy supply ship on a large stretched embarrassment has emerged.

China’s replenishment at sea (RAS) requirements are about to expand exponentially with the advent of its locally built carrier force. Design and construction of large-scale supply ship is even more imperative, not to mention with the Liaoning ship commissioned by the Navy, the aircraft carrier battle group is also supporting the construction of ships need to be synchronized to keep up with the development of large supply vessels and aircraft support ship imperative. Expected new generation of supply ships in the degree of automation and supply capacity will have to be a major breakthrough, and tonnage estimates may be 45,000 tons.

According to Bernard D. Cole, "the PLAN’s inventory of ships capable of replenishing combatants and amphibious ships at sea while underway is a critical indicator of China’s naval ambitions. Until 2005, the PLAN included just three such ships, and only one of these, the ex-Soviet Vladimir Peregudov (renamed Nancang by China), is large enough for fleet operations, at 37,000 tons displacement. It is also the only PLAN replenishment ship with a helicopter deck and hangar.

"Two replenishment vessels of the Fuqing-class displace just 21,000 tons. In 2005, however, China built and commissioned two new Fuchi-class replenishment-at-sea (RAS) ships, each displacing 28,000 tons and capable of supplying the fleet with fuel, ordnance, food, and other supplies. If Beijing uses these new RAS ships as replacements for the two smaller units, it will indicate a continued lack of blue water ambition. If, however, the Fuqings are retained until replaced by larger ships and each of China’s three naval fleets — North Sea, East Sea, South Sea — grows to include two or more large RAS ships, then the PLAN will be capable of more long-range deployments."

Replenishment at sea is the term applied to the transfer of fuel, munitions, supplies, and personnel from one vessel to another while ships are under way. During World War II, replenishment at sea was developed to a fine art of seamanship by the US Navy, which is taken as a matter of course today. Replenishment at sea is accomplished with both the replenishment ship and the ship(s) being replenished steaming side by side on parallel courses at a predetermined speed. In most cases, the replenishment ship maintains its course and speed while the other ship(s) maneuver(s) into position alongside. A separation of about 100 feet is maintained between ships, with the replenishing ship frequently serving ships both to port and starboard.

Messenger lines are passed to the receiving ships, which send back telephone and distance measuring lines and then haul over cargo-handling gear or fuel hoses by means of the messengers. Ships designed for that purpose do most of the replenishment, but major combatant ships are capable of refueling smaller ships. Even the smallest ships can, and do, transfer light freight, mail, and personnel by means of highlines.

In addition to the standard replenishment capabilities, many ships of this type have helicopter platforms for the transfer of munitions, personnel, cargo, and stores by vertical replenishment. Vertical replenishment permits a receiving ship to remain on station in combat formation, eliminating the necessity of temporarily immobilizing itself by going alongside another ship for replenishment.

Ammunition ships (AEs) operate with replenishment groups to deliver ammunition and missiles to the fleet at sea. Their design incorporates a mechanical handling system for more rapid loading and off-loading of ammunition. The mechanical handling system includes such equipment as dual-cantilevered elevators in the holds; forklift trucks; and low-lift, power-operated transporters on the main deck for handling palletized ammunition from the elevators to the transfer stations. Universal portable metal dunnage provides maximum stowage with ready access to all types of ammunition. A tension highline system is built into the design. These improvements provide for much more rapid and reliable transfers and conservation of deck space.

Replenishment Oilers and Tankers (AORs), carrying Navy fuel oil, jet fuel, and other petroleum products, operate with replenishment groups and deliver their cargo to ships at sea. Oilers, as well as ammunition ships, can service ships on both sides simultaneously.



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