The Los Angeles class submarine, USS Key West (SSN-722), exercised with a dry cargo logistics ship, USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE-4), to demonstrate forward, mobile logistics support for submarines. This is kind of the second half of what’s required for forward support of submarines with the other half being a submarine tender for mechanical support.
Apparently, this was a first of its kind event which seems hard to believe but, hey, better late than never!
Dry cargo class ships are responsible for providing logistic lifts to deliver cargo (ammunition, food, limited quantities of fuel, repair parts and ship store items) to U.S. and allied ships at sea. (1)
The demonstration was performed to highlight the submarine’s ability to go safely alongside a dry cargo class ship, which could facilitate the transfer of weapons, stores, critical repair parts, and provide the ability to support crew rest. (1)
USS Key West is one of four Los Angeles class SSNs based in Guam along with the submarine tenders USS Frank Cable (AS-40) and USS Emory S. Land (AS-39). The combination of submarine tenders and dry cargo logistics ships offers the ability to support submarines in a mobile, forward deployed setting, independent of a land base. This offers a degree of resilience in the face of attacks against Guam naval base facilities. Someone is beginning to think in terms of combat operations and that's a good thing!
(1)Commander, US Pacific Fleet website, “USS Key West conducts mobile logistics demonstration”, Lt.j.g. Meagan Morrison, 11-Dec-2019,https://www.cpf.navy.mil/news.aspx/130541