Friday, July 25, 2014

T-AOE Early Retirement

Among the Navy’s newest support ships is the Supply (T-AOE) class fast combat support ships which combine the functions of fleet oilers (AO), stores (AFS), and ammunition (AE).  The class consists of four ships which entered the fleet in the mid to late ‘90s.  The ships provide underway replenishment and have the speed necessary to operate with carrier groups.  Cargo capacities are 156,000 barrels of petroleum products, 1800 tons of munitions, 400 tons of refrigerated stores, and 250 tons of dry stores.  Crew size is around 200 compared to the preceding Sacramento class T-AOE crew of around 600.

Unfortunately, the Navy, in its all-consuming quest to find funding for new construction (see, "The Altar of New Construction"), is considering retiring the class after only 16-20 years of service.  As reported by Defense News website (1),

"By 2013, the service announced it would inactivate the Bridge in September 2014 and the Rainier a year later."

Additional proposals envisioned placing the remaining two ships in reserve status.

As reported in the article, fleet-wide reaction to the retirement/reserve plans was overwhelmingly negative.  The response may prompt the Navy to revise its plans.  We’ll have to wait and see.

T-AOE - Another Early Retirement?

The point is that the Navy is continuing its seemingly never-ending series of bad decisions.

The newest carriers or Burke Flt III’s are useless if they can’t be kept supplied.  More generally, the Navy seems totally unmindful of the reality that all the newest ships in the world can’t compensate for poor maintenance, sub-optimal manning, inadequate training, limited replenishment, etc. which are the result of the Navy’s obsessive fixation on new construction.  That fixation at the expense of all else is crippling the Navy’s fleet size and readiness.

(1) , Defense News, “Big Supply Ships May Get Reprieve - For Now”, Chris Cavas, 12-Jul-2014


  1. I would like to see a study commissioned and carried out by economists. They are able to find the best use of money to deliverer the required results. Forget the Admirals, military analysts and industry. Use science.

    From the state of the navy, such a study has (a) not been carried out, or (b) been totally ignored.

  2. Remember that the USN can't exist without shipyards, and the shipyards can't exist without orders. Losing a major shipbuilder is the one major worry that all CNOs have shared since the 1970's when Asia killed US civilian shipbuilding. It also a major reason why our ships cost so much, the need to pad their price to keep the shipyard running.

    BTW Closing yards is not the answer, have you notice how each yard, except those building LCSs, each specialize in one type of ship, and are mostly the only provider of that type? And what would happen if that we lose the ability to build those type?

    1. GLof, I've already laid this issue to rest. See, "Moratorium".

    2. CNO, I thought you would hid anything to do with that article. as LC told you, it is the exact same logic that case todays problems.

      You obviously have no idea how expensive recreating a shipbuilding industry would be if it was dismembered by ten years of inactivity. You may think that repairing old ships will keep the yards a live, but nothing id further from the truth. The skill, knowledge, and abilities to build ships, can't be pack away to be used in the future. Skills and knowledge will die if they are not exercised, a ten year hiatus would definitely kill them.

    3. G Lof, we have seen an exactly similar situation in the nuclear construction industry. The industry sat idle for almost two decades between 1990 and 2009, and reestablishing it to support construction of new power plants has been a wrenching process.

      The capital cost of a new nuclear power plant is about twice what it was two decades ago, as measured in constant dollars, with a large portion of the additional cost being tied up in passing through the steep learning curve for building nuclear.

      The shipbuilding industry must be protected, but it must be protected in a way which also protects the taxpayer's interests. The first order of business in achieving that goal is for the USN to once again become a knowledgeable customer for the warships it buys, something it has not been for the past two decades.

  3. Mothballing supply ships will reduce the fleet to the littorals... plus a reminder how Japan was cut off in the last war by cutting off all her island bases from supply

  4. Hey Glof, Maybe if they stopped making new ships (LCS) that are worse than the ships their replacing it wouldn't be as big a problem.

    1. Let's keep the discussion respectful and impersonal, everyone.


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